Lessons in Division
We pack cardboard boxes in silence. We are in mourning. My head is down; my black hair curtains my face. This is how to mourn a broken relationship, an expired lease: find own boxes, do not speak, write ‘yours’ and ‘mine’ a hundred times. This is how our one bedroom apartment divides in two. You will move back to your old neighbourhood; I will move closer to my parents. We will not have to shop at the same supermarket, will not run into each other buying heads of iceberg lettuce.
Our bulldog, Phillip, waddles through the living room, into the kitchen, dumps himself onto the tiled floor. He sits on my side of the line we’ve drawn with cardboard boxes and pants for attention. He is the only one smiling. My heart breaks over his stupid, squashed up face because he is going with you and instead I have custody of the espresso machine and the Ikea coffee table and the panini grill we’ve never even used. My possessions, black, shiny and cold. Yours has a beating heart.
I grab Phillip by his front paws, slide the whole weight of him towards me across the kitchen floor, rest my head on his back. He feels like a velvet pillow; my heart is breaking on a velvet pillow. His back moves up and down as he breathes his dog breaths. I close my eyes; my head moves up and down, and I pretend I’m out at sea. No land in sight. Phillip drools on my leg; I open my eyes before I get seasick.
You begin parting the merger of CDs. You fling mine into a box. In a tiny voice I ask if you could please be more gentle. My small voice sounds loud over dead air. You say nothing. I want to shove my words back into my mouth, chew them into letters. There are abstract paintings behind your eyes: a fury of red strokes. I search for my stomach in the cardboard boxes; I must have accidentally packed it away. I feel like cheap Easter chocolate, hollowed out and unwanted. I watch you put Radiohead into the box. The air in the room seems to be thinning. We cannot even share oxygen anymore. I fight for one atom of the molecule, you the other.
I leave for the bedroom down the hall, where there is nothing but furniture. Our bedroom reduced to only wood and metal. You’re taking the bed; I wonder how you’ll sleep. My grandmother’s cabinet is in the corner: ornately carved wooden frame, turquoise lacquer, legs like an old bathtub, glass doors with little gold locks. It used to be home to our books and photographs. It is now a keeper of dust. I close the door behind me.
There is a t-shirt in a lump on the floor. I wonder if you forgot to pack it. I rub it against my cheek like a child with a blanket. Finger the ribbing around the neck. Put my arms through the holes, but it isn’t enough. I need more of it on my skin. Wrap the t-shirt around one of my forearms like a cast, relish in the softness of the worn-in fabric; wrap it around the other. It still isn’t enough. I position it out flat on the hardwood floor, lay down upon it. Put my head on the shoulder, nuzzle into it. I take my own shirt off, put yours on. Wrap my arms around me, hugging myself, hugging a relic of you. It is big on me, big enough to pull over my knees while I sit crumpled on the floor. I rock back and forth; I close my eyes and am out to sea again. In a tiny wooden boat tied to your dock; going nowhere, but rocking up and down in the crests and troughs of waves. The sun is blinding above my head, the burning reflection off the water; I cannot bear to look. There must be a hole in this boat. I am sinking.
A week has passed since I became your dividend.
Twice I drove too far to buy iceberg lettuce.
I sent Phillip a postcard from the other side of town; it has dogs in big, neon sunglasses on it. I know he will enjoy it.