by Ashley Collier
"Marry me," you say, and it comes on a breath that smells of ganja and grape. Artificial, purple, childhood cough medicine grape. We are having a romantic dinner at our coffee table, eating your specialty, a delicious mess that you call waffle sandwiches. You insist that you should buy the rights to this idea, and years later, I will wonder if you cringe when you see your genius plastered across the windows of Dunkin Donuts.
We are watching The George Lopez Show. One of us is liking it. There is no room for plates on the table. You like to leave a little coffee in every cup, because they make the best ashtrays. We shouldn't waste money on ashtrays, this way is more sustainable. So we hold our plates in our laps, and I do not give you an answer.
You build an impressive fire, but I put up the tent. And I put it up alone. And I don't need instructions. I don't complain, though, because it doesn't look like rain and I didn't realize the woods got this cold at night around here. At least you set up a chair for me, and there is a cooler full of ways to make things better. When we lie down for the night you note every lump of earth that sticks into your back, but you don't mind, you assure me, because you were a boy scout. And that means something. And I don't have an answer for you, still.
"Baby," you call me, in a voice that you think is cute. I am washing the dishes. You are circling the kitchen, puffing a cigarette, coughing, and saying, "Baby! Baby! Baby!" You are an asthmatic. You have my attention, you've succeeded, child. But I am busy trying to free our thrift store coffee mugs of their residents, which have begun to solidify, a new sort of specimen. Maybe if I stop now, and let them sit another hundred thousand years, they will garner some value. I know that amber with insect inclusions is worth far more than those crystals without. Some of these already have insects. Presently unidentifiable insects, at least to me. Cigarette butts would surely be a novelty. Maybe I can sell this shit. But no, still no answer.
"Marry me," you say, and I guess you are serious. We are at a stoplight. You don't have a good job and you begrudge me mine. Wouldn't I rather be with you all day? The car smells like mold and you can't afford to put gas in it. I assure you, that's not how this is done. A woman on the corner waves to me, but I pretend not to know her. This way, when I see her next, I can say, It wasn't me, you're mistaken, and everything is fine. And she might believe me, and she might not. I might believe me, and I might not. My answer, for now, is, You're not doing this right.
You tell me I don't need to go to college. We're going to be just fine, and you're going to start some business or another. Isn't it impressive that you've come up with so many ideas? Waffle Sandwiches are going to make us rich. They could, anyway, and don't I have faith in you? And don't I want to pick out a ring? And I guess I do. That part, I guess, is cool. And you have a good heart, and maybe that should be enough. Maybe you're right, and my expectations are too much.
You take me to my favorite place, and you promise me a fairytale. But this time of year there are so many festivals, and you didn't realize the fountain would be surrounded by Port-O-Potty grids. Plan foiled. The five dollar calzone you bought me for lunch is churning my gut, but we don't have tickets, so the latrines are off limit to me. And you think I don't know what you're plotting.
It's the hottest day, I think, I've ever lived through and my dress is sticking to my back in places I am perhaps being newly acquainted with. I am remembering what my body feels like. The carriage ride is a nice touch, and I'm sure it's not cheap, and I'm glad to feel a breeze. Seeing the city from here is kind of amazing, even if the horse keeps stopping to take a shit. And I think, I feel you, bro, and I wonder if the horse can hear me for a minute, because he looks back at me, and he seems to know what I mean. So I tell him I'm sorry he has to wear that feathered headdress, and it's too hot to be subjected to pulling our sorry asses around while flies bite at the silver sheen of his thigh. And we part ways.
We wander into a garden, you and I, and I'm careful not to catch my face on the tree branches. They are barbed. You do have pretty eyes.
We sit on the edge of a pool, and you hand me a penny, and tell me, "Make a wish." I don't want to. The water is murky, but I can see the slight tangerine backs of fish, and I don't want my coin to disturb their ecosystem. But you toss yours in, and when I turn around, you have one knee in the gravel. You have a good heart, I think, and you are saying sweet things. And I have always loved yellow diamonds. And I can't stop thinking about the way the gravel must be piercing your skin.