Colin Fleming


        I don't say anything after a certain point because when I do she gets louder then. And her jaw sticks out farther if I try to go on. By going on that can mean trying to say anything. A couple of times I pretended like I was going to with a quick breath or just moving my head back the way people do when they start to talk. And her eyes go wild. She says I do the same thing. Make the same sort of face when I describe later how I thought she looked. But by then we've made like nothing all that serious has happened at all. And the times when it's all gone just a bit too far for that, we make sure we get out and do something else. In the spring she likes the ducks in the square. The same two come every year. Sometimes they're up on the roof of the school building across the street but usually they're waddling about on the cobblestone that's roped off around the big fir tree that sits in a giant box of dirt like a plant you'd put in your window sill instead of a tree. She feeds them sometimes but usually the man from the art studio on the corner is there first instead. The chapel next to the school has a slanted roof so ducks can't stand on it. Or they can't when they try. She always thinks it's funny though that there's this one seagull—she is sure it's always the same one—who stands right on the cross at the very top of the church, the highest point in the square. When we go out after it's been a really bad one neither of us really says anything except nice little things that really—and I think she would even tell you the same thing—don't mean anything. Like how's your brother and how's your neck. But that can start it again.

        She likes to use the expression, answer me so help me. So help her? Then the wolf eyes and I suppose as we proceed I am not exactly innocent and by a certain point I imagine I pass what she's up to. Sometimes. Answer me she says. You are not even looking at me she says you are not even paying attention to me I don't matter to you. Lots of people live in this building you know. They all have bloody ears even if a lot of them are off to bed by the time we get around to it. Then she's yelling and she ends up being right after all because by that point I look at the wall or the floor but she is not right for the reasons she thinks is. That she does not have my attention. She talks fast one word one word one word boom boom just after another like they're almost connected and getting louder. I hate listening then finally I have to turn and see and wait for the doorknob to turn all in a spasm like hey this thing's locked and then the first splinter when they kick it down like this woman needs to be saved and let's go. Every drunk guy in every pub is just like that. Is something wrong miss and that robin hood load even though anyone watching just saw the girl the prick was after bust out the door laughing with her friends like not this time lad so he's up for something else. It just takes one person one phone call and it's where's that you say and we'll send someone right over. I know they wouldn't knock first, the coppers and the heroes. Not with her. Screaming. You this and that. I jump through hoops for you. If anyone knew what I go through with you. Oh yeah this is what I wanted when I was a little girl someone just like you you—Please I say. Don't you know how loud you are we can't do this in here. Oh then I bet you'd like to get me somewhere alone where no one can hear me you monster I hate you. You have taken everything from me my friends my family my dreams my hopes everything everything everything. I hope I haven't. I don't say that and she wouldn't believe me or she'd think I meant something else like I wanted to be more mean. God knows what she'd come up with. It's true even if she doesn't think I meant it if I said it that I want it all to stop. Please I say we can't be so loud. Don't you know. She must probably somewhere back in there. Write me a letter she said a couple of times. At least a couple of times. You can write me a letter. I asked her what kind. You know. I asked her if I could just say it. Write it she said. She taped it. She taped the thing downstairs in the hallway for everyone who hears us to read. So all the people here could see it because I don't get up early since I don't have to and it wasn't me taking it down and sticking it under my bloody door with a note on building stationary but I know the old crone who must have wrote it. Miss F— Lonelyhearts. This is a peaceful building. The next time we will notify and who do you think they said then. She made me take down my bird feeder too because she said it was whanging but there was no budging this thing on the fire escape I don't care what kind of wind you got up.

        I thought she had snapped her neck. She was screaming I hate you I hate you I never loved you I never loved you you you—and I swear I just wanted her to stop yelling and she bit me. My hand was over her mouth. I was trying to get her to stop yelling because you can't make someone leave if they won't leave when you ask them and they've made up their mind to stay no matter what and they're yelling so what do you do next. So my hand was over her mouth and I had my arm around her and then there was blood. That wasn't the worst. She was kicking at me. She mostly missed but she got me sometimes too. If she had done what she wanted the first few kicks she could've stopped there—one and done would've done it. Averages be damned. There's a pan in the middle of my room and I grabbed it like I was going to do something to her with the pan over the head or whatever but I just wanted to scare her so she'd stop yelling. She was on the ground and she bit me and I spit on her face. When it was getting close to over and she wasn't yelling she tells me about her father. He's tough. And you're the one I talk about she says. Good. Not like that she says. To my brothers too. And all my friends. You don't have any friends I say and I'm saying it because she says it all the time. She used to say she didn't have any before me anyway. Usually now it's that she doesn't have any because of me. If my brothers were here she says. One got smashed up in a car and the other used to grope her so I don't know what she's on about but I think I do and anyway I don't say that. She wants to say it and she says it. If they knew all about you they'd they'd she doesn't say what they'd do but it helps when I say I know and sorry. You're right. If my father came up here from county wherever he'd—I know I say but once when all of it got to me too much I said ha ha ha your father a sixty-five year old man and what she said and I said fine you and your father you're right. Sorry. We go on that way and then the next few days after are fine once it's over. Safe fine. No one really says anything. Then anything can start it. Here's your food she says. I got it today fresh at the market. The fish market. And you know how crowded that is on Fridays. I guess I do. I ask her how her day was and she says you know. No tell me I say. And when she starts to sometimes she starts to cry sometimes. When I don't ask she gets angry. She doesn't say it but I can tell and either way I never know what to do. You don't care she says. You never cared. No one cares. She bites the skin around her nails until she bleeds. I made you your dinner she says. Maybe I can at least do that right. I can always tell when we are starting. I am sorry I say. I didn't mean to do anything. You never do you never do you never do you never have and you never will she says and she is getting louder. Have your f— fish she says and sort of tosses a chunk of one of them on the plate and then slides it hard at me into my lap. There was the time with eels. F— hell. What was that I say and she says you don't like it that is just like you and throws one at me. If my father were here—and my father wouldn't have a pan on the floor she says. Like my father would ever live in something like this. What are you some kind of squatter. She knows my stove is broken and I keep books and glasses in there. She tells me that nothing is good enough for me. I am not good enough for you she says and now we're really into it. I am not good enough for you you you—you are louder than God I say and Christ she says I would like to hear that you bastard and there is food all over the room. Sara I say. Stop. Just for a minute. I try to look at her but I am not good at it. I try to look at her and say something without saying anything like why did this have to happen and why do we have to do this. She says she hates the way I treat her. Always always always. Then what are you doing I ask and she says she has no f— clue. I can't even say it she says. I hate you I hate you I hate you leave me alone and she jumps on the bed. Leave me alone I want to go home she says. She hits herself in the head and screams and I put my hand over her mouth and she bites me and we fall to the floor. I used to keep an oven mitt under the bed but it didn't stop the sound. My father would—your father is not here now I say. Or John or Craig or Emily or Jane or Rodney they would—you made those people up I say. I hate you she says. Of course you do I tell her. I hate you. I hate you I hate you I hate you. Under the covers the words seem to stay there. When her face is still wet and covered with her hair I watch her breathe with her nose down in the pillow. Do you think it will ever get better she says. Me I mean. And us too. I don't know I say. I guess so. Good she says. I'm sorry. Are you listening to me. Yes I tell her. I really am. I can always tell when we are starting. We can talk about it tomorrow. You know I don't—yes of course I say. You know I would never—yes I say. Even though—yes even though I tell her even though even though I can hardly tell her I hate myself for the things I do. It's not like I do not know. And we're just there like pebbles in a brook she said to me once and I said or like apples off the back of a truck for different days or whatever you want.