The following was published on Febuary 25, 2018 on #thesideshow, FIVE:2:ONE Magazine’s online publication. Read it here.
The bed felt hot and I looked down to see single flames erupt between our horizontal bodies. I couldn’t be sure who had started it—we both held used matches, the tips blackened and still hot, smoldering. He wasn’t surprised, unwillingly accustomed, and I attempted to put it out, smother it with blanketed apologies and the weight of my body, but that only angered it more, growing and spreading as we stoked it with sharp insults and stored-up old emotional problems like newspaper for kindling. The fire grew and we watched it burn the space between us. The flames rose above our heads and we were trapped, separately, in our own individualized hells, hot with rage and blinded by the thick smoke of our unrelenting emotional needs. My skin crackled, voice screeched over the roar of the fire but it was no use—my words and their meanings were lost in the flames—as were his, I must assume. Pushed to the edges of the room, we threw what we could: pointed remarks year-old complaints stale emotional blemishes flashes of contempt and pain, but nothing cracked the wall of bloody agony screaming between us. It was an assault neither of us could shield against; we may have started it but now we are lost in the flames of a fire that is bigger than us. He asks me what we should do and I say I don’t know; though the flames are unmanageable, burning our protective fabrics, at least we have something to rely on, should we ever fear alienation loneliness and the cold. We come back to it, again and again, like moths to a light, attracted to the piercing beauty we haven’t the insight to know is eventual death, masked as love.