by Arman Avasia
The man and the woman had names but they often forgot them. Both still had a living parent who missed the dead one, so they weren’t yet old, and their memory problems should have been a cause for concern but there was just so little they cared to remember. They knew Tuesday was garbage day because their neighbor always knocked on the door and reminded them. If she didn’t remember to remind them they wouldn’t remember to put it out. She knew this because when she didn’t, they wouldn’t, and the smell of the garbage drifted down the hall to her apartment like a lingering ghost. Once, in her younger and wilder and more indifferent past, she had lived next to a corpse for more than a week before notifying the proper authorities. She tried to last the full month, but her cat started to look at her with a hunger that would not be confused with desire, so she sullenly called her landlord who frantically called the cops. Neither she nor the cat ever really forgot about what had transpired between the two of them.
‘Jordan,’ the neighbor would say, in a quiet but firm but polite voice. ‘Jordan, it’s Henrietta. It’s garbage day.’ The man and the woman would look at each other blankly, trying to figure out if either one of them was Jordan. ‘Jordan. Jordan, it’s garbage day.’ At this, the woman would nod and the man would nod and he’d unlock the door with a simple grace that never failed to make the woman stare with wonder. ‘Thank you Jordan,’ Henrietta murmured. ‘Thank you,’ the man muttered, and shut the door.
In the moments after garbage day, the atmosphere of the studio apartment was happy and accomplished. The woman stood beaming by the stovetop and the man sat contentedly in his chair. A quiet bliss floated lightly between them and held their gazes together. It never lasted long. The moments after the moments after were maddening. Neither knew quite what to do with their hands while their faces held themselves in grim parodies of the easy smiles that had earlier graced their lives. Inevitably, they fought. The woman and the man did not fight like you and I do. They did not use words or fists. They did not use guns because they did not have guns and they didn’t use knives because there was only one. What happened between them was something beyond language— something that came before. It happened on a physical level and also an emotional one, so of course it happened most of all during sex. When they fought, they fucked like people who didn’t care about each other because, when they fought, they were people who didn’t care about each other. There was no winning or losing but if there was, it would have been the woman who won more, since she was the one most often left unsatisfied and awake. It was only when she finally fell asleep that they were truly together again. They lay next to each other and dreamt different versions of the same dream. The woman dreamt of the man before him and the man dreamt of all the women that would come after.
The man and the woman lived like this for a long time. If it wasn’t love, there’s no other word for it.
– Arman Avasia lives in Saratoga Springs, New York. His poetry has appeared in Folio and Glass Mountain and his music criticism can be found at Inyourspeakers.com.