by Meg Stivison
On the morning of the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death, I realized my relationship was over. It was not so much the perky-voiced DJ’s chatter about the King of Pop, or the realization that a year had passed and I had nothing to show for it. More that I knew that you’d be coming out of the bathroom and opening with “Do you know what I just thought of?” before entering a stream-of-consciousness that would last through drying and dressing and coffee, with a pause to look for your shoes, and pick up again, as we’re walking out to the cars, telling me to have a good day, baby, and drive careful. I’d kiss you goodbye, of course, but gratefully get into my car and try to reclaim a little early-morning stillness for myself.
And I knew, too, that when you came in tonight, you’d ask if I’d gotten milk, or shaving cream, or that seven-grain bread you like, and you’d tell me what your co-worker said to the electrician, and you’d want to turn the air conditioning up. And you’d ask me a perfectly reasonable question about what I’m reading, and follow it up with another, and another, until there was no room for me in the apartment.
And on that morning, I went back inside, and walked around the apartment, looking at the coffeetable you’d refinished the summer I was working nights. I ran my fingers across the throw blanket you’d given me for my birthday, the year I was sure you would propose. I looked at our wine rack, the chardonnay from the wine tour with your brother and the merlot that was just too much for everyday drinking, that would never be opened on a special occasion.
There were words to say, of course, and questions to answer. But eventually, I put on the sneakers I bought when you were getting your haircut, the time the girl skimmed just a little too much and left you with a sparkle of grey in your soft brown hair, and and I threw my suitcase, the one we brought on vacation in Florida after the zipper popped on mine, in the trunk. And then I put it in drive.