IN THE HOUSE she heard creaks and thought about the old lady from Spain pushing her wooden cart and collecting souls. She imagined waking up to Ben’s body and blue lips and the old lady from Spain with her wooden cart and sickle, standing there, Ben’s soul a boneless heap on top of her collection. She imagined shaking his body and crying out his name and how she would probably jump off a bridge or take two packets of sleeping pills after his funeral. Or maybe if she decided that dying wasn’t an option, she would dedicate a lifetime to recover from his love.
It was five months since Ben had walked back in the door carrying his clothes in garbage bags. He had a tiny cut above his lip and was wearing the T-shirt she’d bought him for his birthday, a print of an ice cube saying ‘chillax’. He’d said that he liked it—no, loved it—and told her of all the places he could wear his new T-shirt. ‘Summer is around the corner, and this will be perfect for summer,’ he’d said. But he never wore it, or at least she never saw him wear it. Yet, every week it ended up in the wash and on the washing lines, the summer sun wearing out the blue. She’d thought that maybe he was wearing it in secret and showing it off to his friends. He would say how perfect his girlfriend was, how sweet she was, how funny she was, though she knew their relationship wasn’t like that. When he came back home wearing the T-shirt she’d bought for him she took him back. There wasn’t a big welcome where they dropped bags and ran towards each other. Instead, she told him to put his clothes in the wash and to bin the T-shirt on his back. When they went to bed that night, they slept in the same bed and held each other and she thought of him as if he were a cigarette craving—no matter how long she had planned to quit him he would always be there, she would somehow always crave him. And, although they held each other and talked about the future Saturdays and, although she craved him and felt how hard he was, they didn’t make love. They didn’t make love for the next five months.
When they finally made love, she noticed that he did not just turn away and go to sleep afterwards like he had many times before. He tried to stay inside her for as long as he could and when he couldn’t any longer, he fell to his side and grasped her body. This meant more than the moments when he actually said ‘I love you’ or when he brushed her hair away from her eyes. She could feel him holding her, anchoring her, like his beautiful hands were the only things stopping her from being blown away. Even when he slept, she felt his body wrapping around her so that it was unclear whether she was his security blanket or he was trying to be hers…
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