In the new apartment, you hear things in the walls. They skritch when you’re cooking and scuff during the night. The cat stares under the radiator, eyes the gap between the cabinets and the floor. Should we text the super, your husband says. It’s not mice, you say, but the old friends with whom you’ve lost touch. Shifting, trying to get comfortable. You’ve felt it before, the way you sometimes feel swaddled in the sting of fiberglass. The way you can be in two, three, four, so many places in the same instant. Versions of yourself you’ve cast off, called on by people you’ve flattened to images and feelings. They are your own ghosts, they haunt all the spaces that you—this you—are not.
He burns sage to clear each room, and you fuck in each to make it yours. But lately, every time you slip into him, or a body slips into yours, you think there is something wrong. Your body goes through the motions, but instead of the cascading nerves, the wash of relief, the moment of orgasm is blank. Your body thundering around you, you in the calm, placid nothing at the eye of the storm. Just months ago you panted into the steam of an unairconditioned room as you came, and understood what they mean when they speak of feeling spent, that for those moments there’s a little less life in you. It hums each time he touches you, but you struggle to define what it is. Your body? The question, will it happen again this time? The hope, maybe this time will be different? The realization that even your body is ready to give you up, that the air is ready to lay claim to you?
The first time you vanished, he thought you’d been raptured. You reformed on the slick tile of the shower, told him you had no control over when it happens, that you hadn’t been fucked like that in a long time.
You make a concession to masculinity: of all you would carve out of yourself—the hes and hims, the stubbornness, your too-broad shoulders, how your theys and thems feel like intrusion—the one thing you cannot deny him is the use of the word husband. Partner, spouse—neither conveys the intimacy of your need for him and his for you, how you slogged through two families and across a country to have a small place where you can be unknown to the world and known to each other.
When you think of California you remember New Years at your aunt and uncle’s on the coast, when you wrote wishes and intentions on strips of paper, stood out on the deck and set them alight. You remember how the flame curled and wisped into the black sky, but do you remember what you wished for? Do you remember thinking, then, that the world might dissolve with you still on it, or did you always expect to be gone when it did? When the state curls, now, from border to border in one ashy flake, do you hear the hammering of fists on wood? Do you hear the voices? Can you hear him among them?
When California was stolen, hammered into a dream, there were entire days during the time you lived there that you fell for it. Squinting into the lush tangle of Golden Gate, you could see through time to a lack of buses, of horns, of tech. Who would’ve called it paradise but an outsider blind to the knife nostalgia hides. New York is money, plastic bags, dicks fingered into the snow on windshields, anything you could want summoned to your door with a few taps of your thumb. Even here, California sticks to you like incense, caught in the tang of your armpits, accent in your aura, where he puts his tongue when your hands are bound above your head. New York fugs of cigarettes and attitude—internal, clinging to your skin and lungs.
They are both dreams you are allowed to inhabit, but neither are truly meant for you.
Your body is its own island on the dance-floor and in the bedroom, battered by wind and hands and industry. You don't do drugs often because you like them too much, how they shake loose what was fixed, open what was closed. In the club, you become all body, no thought, grinding up against your husband to the thud of 808s, slipping a hand under his jeans to feel him harden. He is shy in different ways, and you want to be seen. It's not ownership, not see what I have that you do not, but making yourself erotic and visible among those who understand what it means or has meant, what you risk by doing so.
The religious speak of bilocation, of polylocality, like a miracle, but you’ve only ever thought of it as a means of survival. Unconcentrate your flesh, diffuse yourself into the air, like all the particulates of dinosaurs and other long-dead creatures swirling in the water of your molecules. Difference is, you will become fog blown into a net planted on the hillside, you can reaccumulate bead by bead, becoming too heavy to hold, remaking yourself from the puddle. But are you miraculous if you are alone and no one is there to witness?
Still, the world persists: if you wish to exist within my bounds, you must make concessions. It knocks at your door and wants to know which of you fucks whom, as if fucking were a one-way street, a doing unto. It wants to know why your husband sleepwalks and won’t touch pecans, wants to know why you flinch when someone calls you sir. Each day you work to remake your marriage anew—an attempt to have less of a relationship with the world than you do with him, despite how the world insists on having a relationship with both of you.
Togetherness that myth you create between yourselves, neither metaphor nor a merging of bodies—even when you buck and quiver inside each other, the melancholy that even you cannot blur your edges to meld with his—a side-by-sideness. And is that not its own form of magic, what two or more do when alone together? Home is the myth you weave there, in the dark and the quiet. What separates a miracle from a haunting is a matter of context.
Then comes a day you worried would, unannounced. Are you prepared, could you ever be? No knock at the door, but a curse and fist to the jaw as the two of you walk home arm in arm from the bar. Ear to the sidewalk, you hear the rush and the roar approaching, fire igniting the streets. No will, no then, only now and now and it’s now that you want to be a miracle, to wrap your husband and scatter him with you.
He sees it start to happen but his hands go through you. A thousand nettle bites across your body, then a thousand more, the air stinging into you with intention, porcupine barbs pulling you apart pore from pore, muscle from sinew, blood from blood.
Then, you are fog.
You try to surround him as he becomes a shadow thrown into relief against the side of the building. You hope the last thing he hears is the promise you hope you can keep: When I find you next, I'll have this figured out, I'll be able to take you with me.
Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Z Kennedy-Lopez is a writer and educator who likes cats, swimming, and Latin American electronic music. A recipient of fellowships from Writing by Writers, their work has appeared/is forthcoming in Arkana Mag, Mortar Magazine, peculiar journal, The Southampton Review, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, West Wind Review, and other publications, and has been nominated for a Pushcart. They have degrees from Rutgers University–Camden and the University of California, Davis, and can be found on Instagram and Twitter, both @queerbooksloth.