Michelle Davidson Argyle
One thing I cannot forget: the sound of footsteps through a room on the carpet in the dark. I am on the bed asleep when you are barefoot. Comfortable steps through a room and I am suddenly conscious. Eyes fly open, pulse flutters, fingers twitch. I choose never to forget this sound. I will never forget the dark when I can smell the breath of you on my skin. This is not a dream.
Last night you said you would turn on all the faucets and flood the apartment. I am thinking of fish and floating paper. Drowned shoes and my wedding ring at the bottom of everything that matters. Is there nothing past this thing we call new? Remember me standing in front of you standing in front of me with your fingers on my fingers and through the veil I caught sight of the tears in your eyes? You said they were happiness. I am convinced there is nothing left but water.
Look at the white of your palms, the outsides turned up to the sun, your ring still on your finger circled around your skin like an orbit or some galaxy you have named music, sound, the flow of a voice across the skin of us. There is one thing I will never forget: the sound of water down the hallway into the kitchen under the table we bought with your last paycheck. Oak, cherry, pine, it doesn’t matter. I am breathing more than air. I am breathing water and I can hear the voices above my head.
We are in the parking lot next to our car and it is raining and the entire world is wet. The top of my head, my eyelashes, lips, breasts. This is something we lean against: the door of my car with your body protecting mine from what weeps against us anyway. I have lost my keys so we go back upstairs and wade to the bedroom. The rooms are beginning to smell wet—that smell different from rain; more like the sky after dawn or a tree after it has cracked, its branches hitting the earth so hard they release the scent of wet, tired death.
Yesterday, you left me like this: wading in the hallway to catch up with you, the splash of my ankles through the water as you glanced behind your shoulder before slamming the door. I can’t stop thinking about the way you move your mouth. You have always asked me “what?” and I am always answering “nothing.” Sometimes I wonder if you ask me that just to break the silence with your lips, push the air into sound and movement. Nothing, when what I really want to tell you is that I cannot live without seeing your mouth and feeling you under me, without your voice and hands and skin spread across me like some ocean I am going to drown in. I will drown because the air I am breathing in your absence is suffocating.
I promise I’ll clean up the water. It has been three weeks and the water is nearly gone. Yesterday I found my ring on the floor near the stove, the place you first gave me that frown of disapproval and turned on the faucet. You said you’d wash it all away. I still remember looking at your tears and thinking love. I still remember you telling me you wanted to believe things were better. I guess water is sadness, too.
At night I can still breathe the wet in the air down my throat into myself like some creature trying to get inside, and it has. This smell, this sound of the wet floor in the morning after the sun rises is a reminder of you. Nobody said you would ever leave—no song, no smell, no sound could ever have informed me of your sudden absence after a flood. This is the sound: clouds breaking, a sudden clap, the roll of rain on carpet, the sound of a door closing. Outside the world is dry.
All this in my head in one moment: the flood, the door closing and then opening and then closing and the sound of your footsteps on the carpet down the hallway on the dry carpet through the door nearer to me your footsteps. You have come back, and I cannot forget your barefoot steps through a room on the carpet in the dark, your voice spilling like a flood forming the shapes of apologies. There is the question and there is the answer—my own voice saying “nothing,” my own hands opened for rain.