Go Away, come Back, I'm Yours
What some of us were doing was sitting--chairs and futon, bean bags and nothing but hardwood floor--near those gigantic eastern windows even though it was dusk and when there was light there was nothing really to be seen but the other apartment buildings on the street and a streetlamp, and some of us were in the kitchen among so many measurements and cups and scales and precisions to register and keep track of that without all of us in there it wouldn't have worked but it did, somehow, because with a smooth synchronicity the oven door was closed the microwave quit radiating the stove's burners quick teasing gas into flame and there was a quiet, as everything calmed, that made clear just how bad it had been below all of us that whole time.
Some of us stayed in the well-lit eastern room in front of the window, the light shifting and taking on nothing more than glow, so that one of us in white seemed perfectly well lit and another of us in green seemed lulled toward the sky by the slowly coming darkness, and while some of us stayed in the kitchen a few of us, carefully so that all of us didn't think it was a Big Thing, snuck to the rear hallway, past the kitchen and far past the eastern room and past even the bedroom--some of us were just in front of the bathroom where we got down on our hands and knees and listened to what had been happening beneath us the whole time it's just we hadn't even know it.
In no order we heard: voices, crashes, thumps, doors being flung shut in a goodbye/good riddance manner, doors pounded on and reopened, children howling with unguided--terrified or gleeful, ecstatic or awful--emotion, more thumps, a song snapped on halfway through its playing on a radio station and almost instantly that song and radio station shut back off. Breathing.
There were lulls. Things in the oven came together and came apart and turned into the thing some of us had seen pictured so carefully in black and white in the cooking magazine and the stove's residents were all done simmering most of us had a beverage and one of us still had a hangover from last night and the night before that too--goodbyes force drinks, one of us said, thick into a night of drinks and goodbyes--and one of us and said "do you think he'll come back?" and we didn't have to point to the floor because we all knew who we meant when we said He in a way that meant we'd heard him shout Chinga and some of us knew what it meant but even the rest of us, nobody with a lick of foreign language, knew that it was a word we only had to hear shouted once to know the meaning of.
One of us said "Hey, let's play another game" and most of us sat imitating calmness, the night already plopped on the whole sky like a fat guest and the world its couch, and without any negation one of us said "Okay here's the game: when should you have gone back?" and some of us smiled to ourselves, the ones of us who only had a couple really bad times that we should've come back to anything, ever, anywhere and knew those times were worth remembering and going back to. The game we'd played earlier had been "What now?" and most of us said the usual--job, career, storybook marraige--and when one of us said "I just want to know if we're really inheriting the world or not," we all assured each other and ourselves that yes, of course, the world was coming, here it came, right to us.
"Detroit, 1989. Sandy Belmont. She would've kissed me if I'd just turned around." One of us said and looked at the other in the room who knew Sandy Belmont and her frazzling swagger, the blunted charge she left with everyone until Josh whoever-it-was-she-married all those years later. One of us sighed and walked into the kitchen and didn't come back out. One of us sneered and said "Never once. I've walked away right every time," and one of us mumbled a low "yeah" but most of us knew that lie, knew that every decision had its own ache and some choices got carried to the grave as flubbed half solutions to problems that wouldn't ever unknot, no matter what. When there came a loud pounding on the door what we were all doing was listening, waiting for insistence to force another knock and when it came one of us went to the door and a loud stream of strained spanish darted through the room and some of us knew the voice said fucking asshole door's broken sorry friend can I come through your apartment but we all knew the voice was fake sugar, too sweet by half to be good for anyone's teeth.
No one said anything when the door swung open and a man walked through lifting off his hat to all us sitting around in the eastern room with only one light on and the windows showing the night like it was up for sale and when the man walked through the kitchen to the back door he hesitated in the kitchen and one of us whispered "What's in--?" and pointed but the man quickly opened and closed the door and we listened as he clopped down the stairs and beat his own back door like it was impenetrable or fate or bad or broken or maybe just like he really had to pee.
"Eva Stenzel, 1996, Northfield. She said, god she, she said ëthe couple who plays together stays together," we were playing basketball. Horse. She won. I left the next morning and suddenly, seven years later, she's married." What we were all thinking was how suddenly it is seven years later all the time and you can't ever get back to anywhere because an old love letter is not a map no matter how many times it's folded and refolded and read and felt (like it may have its own special Braille), even if you pack it every time you move--Boston to San Diego to Clarkson to Hattiesburg--it'll never get you all the way back.
Some of us are beginning to see the world we've been told we're inheriting is nothing at all like the inheritance we'd imagined and instead of basements or rec-rooms or dirt beneath us there are pounding spanish-speaking men and when one of us gets back down hands and knees on the ground and puts an ear to the wood we're all pretty quick down on our hands and knees listening, waiting till one of us whispers "Had a shirt, long time ago, said Go Away, Come Back, I'm Yours. Three lines on the front of the shirt. Wore it right out, till the fabric was gone but the big silk-screened letters lasted. Loved that shirt," and when one of us laughs we all follow suit, all of us ear-planted to a wood floor like it's a railroad we're scared of being killed on and listening for words or poundings or the bell in the kitchen that'll tell us the food's ready so the night can keep going, dinner to dessert to drinks to dreams or nightmares, but what we hear, there all together, is the muffled pop of a hand on a countertop and we'll never ever know what brought that hand down, relief or vengeance, a fit of decisiveness or rage at confusion, or if whoever owns that hand will even remember or ever want to, will sometime see a dark night coming and to get some light will think or whisper or maybe say all the way out loud "Should I have gone back?"
When the bell rings in the kitchen no one moves.
About the author:
Whitfield Corduroy is 24, infatuated with Mos Def, bicycling, and Dean Young.