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Formerly a Paradox

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Mark has dark eyes bruised from lack of sleep and ink stains coloring black his fingertips. He tells Roger, solemnly, slowly, over breakfast that is nothing but black coffee going cold, never to fall in love. Then he looks at him as if a look could be a promise, and when Roger meets his eyes he begins to feel that he has signed an oath with his own blood.

Mark is in love. Roger assumes. But there is an authority about him (his walk his voice his films his dreams his stare) that floods over his hypocrisy, drowns it out.

*

April comes to him in March, one face in a crowd of faces that makes all of the other faces blur. At first, he finds her distant. She is always walking one step behind him. She goes out to the roof to read her battered novels and plays. When she does not want to talk, she makes a point of staring out past his right ear, of barely blinking her eyes.

But spring grows. The air warms. He comes to memorize the tones and timbres of her voice as she whispers her secrets against the backdrop of the settling dusk.

*

Roger remembers only later that she never looked Mark in the eye. Between the two there was, always, a crackling static of dislike and distrust: in the way she turned the pages of her book, in the way he clattered empty dishes into the sink.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if she killed herself,” Mark says, after she leaves.

Roger calls him a bastard and slams the door over his exit.

Mark doesn’t understand. He only sees her sprawled sullen and silent across their couch, never smiling that shattering smile or yelling out over the city streets

run away with me

 

*

For a while she is everything and then the door slams and the call comes and she is nothing.

He stops writing.

He starts to dream.

In the nightmares, he sees the ocean, and sometimes her, and sometimes the ends of the earth. He sees torn scattered pages and he cannot read them. He sees rain and he cannot feel it.

He wants to carry the wounds of his past on the outside as he feels them on the inside. Then he would be so disfigured and ugly that not even Mark would be able to look at him anymore.

*

“I should have followed your advice,” Roger says. “About love.”

Mark’s eyes are closed, but his voice is alert, is harsh when he says, “You weren’t in love with her.”

This could be the wound that finishes it all.

Roger stares at the shadows that play over Mark’s skin.

“Maybe no one ever has been.”

Now Mark’s eyes open and Roger can hear, almost, concern in his voice. “You don’t believe that. I know you. You’re just hiding. You—”

“Shut up,” Roger snaps, and lets his own eyes close and whispers, “Maybe you don’t know me like you thought.”