The analog radio blurred static.
I woke up in the glum, glop, of the new morning, only to find myself crucified above the bed. The bed-sheets crumbling below me looked like waterless waves.
She’d play games like that; her domineer was stealth, sex, love; manipulate my body, my mind, and I’d find myself in a new way, and a new place; completely unaware of what had happened, until I was allowed, until I woke, or she woke me; and sometimes not at all for weeks, or months or hours or days.
My back bled from her insistent flogging: that sound like paper tearing, like bulbs cracking, the way she angled the bedroom light with concave shades to my back caused the rivers of blood to glow a fluorescent decadent gashing. A river of blood, an ocean.
Late into the night she let me descend from the nailed planks of wood. I fell into a brief sleep, a few hours later I woke in a pile of sweat.
Washed my face. Brushed my teeth. Shaved my face with a razor. My beard she no longer desired, nor was I keen on delighting her with my appearance any longer.
Each operation took time: carefully washing my face, brushing my teeth, shaving my face.
Best I could tell, I was the only person awake in the apartment.
The sun cast my shadow a silky flow with its shine from the plated window. The hallway was dark; I walked from the bathroom to the kitchen.
I tied my tie, then sat down at the wooden table to have a simple meal: a whole-wheat muffin, bacon and organic orange juice.
About to leave through the front door framed a tall rectangle, I heard the rustling of what was coming.
Claire, my wife, shouting from the bedroom, “I want a divorce, Malcolm. I won’t be here when you get back.” Claire, my wife only for a brief moment more.
I had been, however, sleeping on the couch for the last several days.
She appeared in the doorframe to the kitchen like an apparition. Already in make-up and high heels. Music was spinning behind her, probably from the bedroom; the type of jazz that I liked. She was draped in a dashing, flowing, encasing dress: an attire that made my organ fill plump and desire.
“You’ve got a week to get your stuff out of here,” Claire said, piercing and playful. She continued, deeper. “One week to leave. One more week, you pathetic creature.”
Her dress draped in a wave below her knees. She lifted it, showing me her pubic hair. She’d dyed it orange. I liked orange. Colour, she was always changing it. She knew what I liked and knew what I didn’t.
I dropped to my knees, begging, sulking for one more try, one more time to give her a child that would fill her up.
“It will work this time,” I said with a promise. “I want a child just as much as you do,” I lied. “We could adopt,” I said honestly. I knew that wouldn’t work, none of it would. She’d made up her mind, and when she did there was no arguing. Besides, I’d tried it before. She didn’t want to adopt; she wanted a birthing, a natural child to grow inside of her. She shook her head.
“I want you to look, I want you to never forget,” she said with a wicked tongue, “never forget what you couldn’t give me, what you couldn’t give yourself.”
She pulled a razor from behind her back and shaved her fluff of natural grown hair, the orange between her legs. Shaving herself in front of me, legs spread open with the heels resting flat. She used my tears for lubrication. She told me to be quiet, that I had had my chance.
She lit a Marlboro. Did not offer me one.
Bald she stood; putting the orange into a Ziploc bag, she cut a small place in her belly, dropped the blood in too; gave me the bag and bid my farewell with a dismissive hand.
Holding the bag, I spoke in protest: “I can’t leave. I don’t want to leave. All of my things are here.” My adolescence emerging, not knowing how else to respond, or feel, except solitude. I felt fourteen again.
“That’s why you’re going to take your things with you,” she said, exhaling smoke, “which isn’t much.” She wiped the make-up from her face. It smeared. “Remember me without anything.”
Her natural beauty made my tears run.
“If you recall,” she continued, while removing her dress, her make-up, her nail polish, and perfectly unzipping the back of her dress with one hand, “the apartment is in my name, remember?” I remembered, I clinched, felt, thought. “Technically, you moved in with me. When you get back I’ll be gone, but I expect you to find someplace else to stay by the week’s end. You’ve spent months across the world, you can manage moving out of here.”
My knees shook. I laughed a little, but only in an attempt to soothe, a nervous laugh, uncomfortable.
“The time I spent away was on business,” I said with a choke. “I always knew I was coming back to you, back to a familiar place.”
Claire let out a frustrated flush of air, completely naked and in the moment, woman. Wings began to form, then, from someplace in her back. Flourishing from out of her, a reverse penetration. She seemed in ecstasy. The wings formed; the rest of her was narrowing, she was turning into a sparrow, to haunt me, to never leave me; to never leave.
That single part of her was changing there before me, to my eyes, only to my eyes.
“Can’t we work this out?” I said, desperate.
“No, Malcolm, we can’t,” she huffed, filling her lungs; knees working backwards, feet shrinking, chest shrinking, nose expanding, purposeful changing.
She was many things; a human, (soon) a bird. Ghosting me.
“You can’t count on things to stay how you expect,” she paused static, chirping, and continued. “Just try to make this easy, okay?” Why the compassion?
Radio blurring music, the jazz beating in fragmented beats.
She’s formed into a sparrow and yet still before me she stands as a flesh woman, naked in skin, and meat, bone and veins, full chest, long legs, red curled hair to her bony shoulders. A placeholder. A burden.
Her, as a sparrow, fluttered near me, over and near the muffin I failed to finish for breakfast, up to the ceiling, for a moment flitting and flapping, unsure of her new self: new in the fluttering skin, feathers, and beak. She clunked into the ceiling and the walls, into me.
Herself, the body holding her, as I knew it, as I knew her—the shell: her visually pleasing light skin—even on all of her body. I stared, on my knees, still panting like an animal. I stared at her newly shaved crotch.
Her as a bird gawked at me. Her as the shell of a person looked into the soul of my eyes.
You can’t leave, the sparrow squawked. Where will you go? At first her words exited her beak in spaced segments, unlike normal lan. gu. a. g. e., the voice still forming, flinching, monotone, arrestingly static, fragmented; like a boy going through fast forward puberty.
You remember all of the great times you’ve had in this home, the bird told me; teasing, flapping tough, keeping the little body in flight, finally.
It continued talking to me. This is an expensive place. You remember pleasant nights you’ve had sitting on the roof of the building, smelling the city’s smog, looking for something, anything that looks like it might be a star. Who is she to leave you?
Who are you? I thought.
It’s you who should be doing the leaving, said the sparrow. Said my wife, said my ex-wife filling my head with flotsam. Said some bird. Said some winged beast.
The bird flew through an open window like a saved soul, out of my mind for the moment; through the window into the morning sky.
“I used to love you,” she said, in her nude, natural body, while looking into my eyes. She looked directly into them, but past them. She looked beyond, deep into my mind’s windows, in a way only she could. “I’m sorry,” she said with no emotion.
Somewhere a bird called in a cluttered shrill.
Her body swiveled, her buttocks revealing, and I continued to sob.