Earlier this morning, I read an excellent article about flash fiction and then wrote the following. Flash fiction isn’t one of my strengths, but I work on the craft from time to time.
“Are you a serious poet or not?” Gabrielle asked, leaning against me, having drank too much, having breathed in the dust of bad memories, hazy and crazy as her hair.
“No, I just fuck around on the page,” I said, half meaning it, half wanting to smack Gabrielle across the room. Of course I was serious, serious as the blood in my veins, coursing like a loping dog…that is, slower than I’d like for it to, because I’m getting older, as Gabrielle pointed out yesterday as we lay in bed after a mid-afternoon tryst. It was brief and brilliant, the memory of it still hanging in my chest and clear in my mind, not muddled a bit by her drinking, which you’d think I’d be used to by this point. Jesus.
“I’m a serious poet,” Gabrielle said and swayed over to sit on the piano bench. Don’t play, please, I said to her with my mind because sometimes she hears me. Not that time. She opened the keyboard cover and trailed her fingers down the keys. The sound set my teeth on edge and I nearly dashed over and grabbed her off the bench. Instead, I forced my muscles into stillness and listened to her horrible plunking of the keys and drunken nonsense.
“I’m going to publish a chapbook and you’re not,” Gabrielle said, the fingers of her right hand curling to strike a chord—F major, so it should have been her thumb, middle finger, and pinkie, but she fucked it all up and used her thumb, index, and finger finger, the latter of which slipped and so butchered the chord.
“Are you now?” I said.
“And it’s going to win some major fucking award and I’ll get an agent.”
“Poets like us don’t get agents, Gabrielle.”
She—my girlfriend of two years, my lover, my Lost Girl, my Burning Angel, the source of my hatred and long—smiled at me, her teeth stained with coffee, wine, cigarettes. “There’s no us when it comes to writing, you presumptive bastard,” she said. “It’s just me while you trail somewhere behind.”
Gabrielle wasn’t like this sober, which was less and less these days. I moved out of the room as she continued trying to play chords and mostly failing.
I poured the last of the wine down the sink and tried not to listen, which is kind of like trying to not breathe. The massacred notes bombarded the kitchen for a few minutes and then suddenly stopped. When I came back into the living room, I found Gabrielle curled up and sobbing on the sofa.
“Do you hate me?” she cried out as she slammed her hands against her head.
I wanted to…but I didn’t. I sat beside her and gathered her heaving form, cradled her like a child, whispered soothing things into her hair.
When she finally fell asleep later, I undressed her calmly, put her on pajamas, and tucked her into bed. Then I sat at the piano, playing songs from memory, knowing the sound wouldn’t come close to waking her.