We will call you R, light of my life. No, that’s what my dad called me.
The word spoke me to your arms. Out of the car, away from the liquor store, to the coffee shop patio. You sat with a woman as I sat down breathless, barging, and begging. You sent her away, a frown on her face. I shouted about the drink and you guided me through the street to the bookstore, to the art section to seduce me, to curl me away with paint and canvas into your bed. My glasses on the nightstand. I wear only your body like it’s mine made perfectly, every seam a fit. We stayed that way, only that way, until you left me naked between sheets and pinpoints appeared on my arms, pinholes in my eyes.
My father died somewhere in the middle, right after Christmas. I didn’t visit him because of you, because you asked to see me on Christmas. Now I can’t even remember if I saw you on Christmas, your breath in the air in the parking lot of the meeting with cigarettes, paper cups and drunks saying amen serenity now and your sweater was blue but everything is blue now like my father’s body when it was found the next day, not the day after Christmas but the day after he died, the 29th of December. You broke up with me the night of the 28th over the phone. We talked a really long time while I stared out the window at a big rubber ball half deflated, one size smushed down, the air all gone. I tried to move it with my mind and thought how it’d be easier to push it away than to pull it toward me and I told you it was a metaphor. You said I know.
You had the flu and gave it to me. I told people at the meeting in midtown he gave me the flu, like it was syphilis or tuberculosis or something permanent to wrap around me. I said your name though it was a secret. I was a secret you had caught, tucked away, hidden from the eyes of AA, from the sober women who judged your 3 years against my 2 weeks. I collapsed on your couch and you ordered us take out. You pressed me down, your heat my heat, sweating out the fever.
I wrote in my journal while you painted. You never painted me but took pictures of skin exposed, little bits of me. I couldn’t breathe unless you were touching me and when your fingers traced my hip the air burned over. Your hands folded my legs and kissed my navel. I let you in places no one had been and no one else would ever go.
You stole me from your friend. He always told me everything you said about me. I pretended to be disgusted. One night at a meeting you followed us out to the parking lot and I wouldn’t kiss him because you were watching, because I wanted to be kissing you.
I worked at Kmart, in a red smock, behind the deli, in a hair net, and you came in, smirked, took photos, and screamed where’s my Kitty which is what my mom called me, my grandmother called me. It was under those fluorescent lights when your friend told me he was fired for dating me because I hadn’t been out of the treatment center, the rehab where he worked for very long. Dating me was against their rules, and he smiled at me in the middle of cheap clothes and told me we must have been seen together at a meeting and he didn’t care because he was proud to be with me. But soon after, I was hopping out of cars and running to coffee shop patios where you sat waiting for me not even knowing I was coming but still waiting patiently to take me home with you.
My dad’s body was found in his kitchen. He had been there overnight. Alone in the kitchen. It was cold. The end of December. I knew the day before. I called and called and left messages on his answering machine. I wonder if he heard me, if he knew I was calling, if he knew that I loved him. I left work early on the 29th. I walked home in the rain and spoke out loud to my dad. I asked him not to die an alcoholic death. We all thought he was abusing pain pills but he was dying and I was too caught up with you to see it, to see me, to see anything beyond the two of us. My stepmom who was on her way to being ex step mom showed up looking for his wallet/pills/credit cards but my brother had pocketed/flushed them all.
I sifted through the gray and spoke out loud, one foot in front of the other, daddy do not leave me, I repeated over and over. The sky dropped water on my feet, splashed with each step, and I didn’t have a car but was going to go to Mississippi to find my dad in his house with his television on, resting on his lazy boy, and the cat named Annie without a tail in his lap. Everything was going to be ok. You had dumped me the night before and I knew he was gone. I knew I had let him die alone.
My mother and my aunt came in the door. I had stripped off my clothes into boxer shorts and a t-shirt. My hair still dripped and I wouldn’t stop talking. Noise kept coming out of my mouth forming words to block out the words that were coming to stop the reality of this gray, everything now so gray. Sounds formed more words. I needed to go to Mississippi. My Aunt said Kitty and I shook my head no no no and she told me my father was dead. Glass broke against wall, my body broke wall, chips of paint flecked off like dust, like a dropped bomb, and the dog was at my feet jumping up, grabbing legs, trying to pull me down and soothe me. There was still sound but no words from my mouth. My lungs had emptied beyond language and I called you screaming and you called me baby.
Before the light there was darkness
Always the darkness that pulled me to the light to you to other things I liked to do
In the needle there is a light in the dark that brings more dark that brings false light
Are you the light? The one they speak of?
Everything starts with light But that isn’t true
The word said let there be light
Exploding light of a big bang
Meditation begins with light Breathe in a soft white light
Out of the canal babies blinded by fluorescent light
The word spoke me into your arms. The word was with God in the beginning and ripped through a woman
Are you the word that is the light and why is it so hard to keep you?
Sometimes the meetings were at night with candles on the table and the overhead lights dimmed. You beside me and no one could see. I needed to make you love me, to make you stay, my hand over your zipper easily slid down. I loved you and I needed you to love me, want me, and my hand did things to you in the dark while people spoke miseries or triumphs in fallen states, fallen bodies. I knew we wouldn’t last, already half in the shadows.
The funeral came and the funeral home filled with people from my family, people from the meetings and you were with me thy rod and thy staff. You gave me a button that said wanna make out in the parking lot. I clasped it on my purse, hugged my aunt and strangers, and then it was time to see the body. You hung back away from my family. I walked down the narrow halls with lush burgundy carpet, a color not like blood but like wine, thick wine to cover the pain, to lessen memory. My air left and my legs ran back to where my mother stood with my sister. I collapsed at their feet. I didn’t know how I was supposed to look at the body, how my dad had become a body, a thing, a vessel depleted of light.
Then we continued. Back together again. Me unable to breathe without you. Me trying to stay sober, working steps, calling my sponsor who called you a defect but understood what it was like to be so consumed with another person. You were not consumed with me.
My dad told me about a time with him drunk, whiskey, and with a gun. He sat alone in our East Memphis apartment, my mom and I gone, left, run off by the stench that stayed in his breath. The room was dark. Only a sliver coming through the window from the street lamp. The barrel of the gun to his head when he saw the light fall across a picture of me and so he didn’t do it. Bullet holes in the ceiling instead of his head. He called me the light of his life.
We sat in a coffee shop. I knew it was over. The false light, the imitator of light, called to me. I sat across from you in a booth. A red stain on the edge of my cup. We didn’t talk. I wanted you to look at me. Goddamn it, look at me, my mind screamed. You finally said something. Something insignificant. I couldn’t think of anything else but you, the way my body felt when you touched me. I looked through smudged glass at birds traipsing through the gray sky. I heard inside my head You won’t always be like this. And this you was me and I smiled a little because I knew it was true though I didn’t know how long it was going to take.
You touched me in all the right places, traced all the right lines, my breath was your breath, you were my breath. My legs, your legs, you were my body. Heart to empty chest. The sheets tossed and tangled around us, our valentine’s presents to each other on the floor near the door. Then you said I can’t do this anymore. You meant be with me. You meant fuck me. You meant love me. You broke up with me again. I wrapped the sheet around me and grabbed my clothes off the floor and hurried into the bathroom. Bare feet on cold tile, I shivered, my pantyhose tangled in my shaking hands.
I had no car. You drove me home. I stared out the window and said things that forgave you, things that let you off the hook, lies that I hadn’t really felt anything for you at all. I felt my light going, it took the air as it left.
A woman you dated before me befriended me, decided that I was her project. I thought she was going to help me but she only talked about you and insulted you. I didn’t hate you. I still wanted you. I knew her anger meant she still felt for you. I didn’t like you being connected to another woman, to another woman’s pain. This made mine less special. It made me wonder if there was ever light or even a spark or was it all a trick of the eye.
Eve wasn’t allowed to see God in the garden. She heard of the light but never saw the light except through man, his rib to her rib, her whole body his flesh
Then she saw the light
Before the light was darkness In the darkness were imitators of light Sometimes the darkness shined so bright she couldn’t see it wasn’t the real light It talked to her and she smiled
The fake light feels like the real light Feels warm Teases her and the garden doesn’t seem enough anymore with its lush flowers and bees that buzz around She thinks of her reflection
she feels pretty she feels loved
because this way the light is inside her
Eve hears the whispers like her own voice inside her head
Eve is rolling up her sleeves
A spoon over a flame
A needle with the light inside touches her arm and slides in
She doesn’t care that the garden is falling and that God is gone and left her cursed
Her skin glows.
It isn’t Eve, it’s me
and it isn’t God, it’s you.
Kat Moore lives in Memphis, TN. She has work forthcoming/in Salt Hill, New South, Blunderbuss, Yemassee, and others. A list of all her publications can be found on her website.