Tom Jacobs © 2006 All Rights Reserved
The Documentation of Happiness
I pick at his skin, prod his moles. (I've made craters where none existed.) Cut thick tufts as well as rogue hairs. I comment on the small imperfections, chastising, cajoling, naming the superficial blemishes. The sun lights the hair on his shoulders into a halo. His skull is perfectly round. I note these things and point them out to him, as if describing him to himself.
When he says, “so many imperfections!” I ask, “you’d prefer I were blind?”
My husband wears the cats—there are five of them—like a tail.
They were on a moonless dark road on the far side of the island. The truck was red. She knew as well as he that they were unlikely to find the lost shoe (hers, a huarache-style sandal). She had other shoes.
That side of the island was inhabited by sheep and goats, the occasional wild hare, partridges in season. They’d gone there to be alone but then the truck had filled up with others.
In the chaos of limbs, their hands found each other.
Someone said: Crack a window!
All the air was gone, sucked up by him, offered to her. The cabin pulsed.
Beneath the high arches and windowed-ceiling of the central market, they recognized the face: it had the same wrinkled, patient look they’d known in the flesh. Tourists swirled around them.
They loved the face, hated to see it hanging amongst rows of postcards. Beside it were pictures of hazy white sheep, a single large-horned goat, striations of rock.
Was it that he’d become a force of nature?
My husband went to town alone, and came back thrilled with the new color: a startling orange that stands alone, defiant, almost crazily so, in this rocky land of muted greens, browns and grays. Each time I look back at the house from afar, it’s as if I’m swallowing an unusual food I keep telling myself is good for me.
When his teeth were fixed, it took me a while to understand that the teeth were his, and part of him. I’d look at him and think it was two people: him, the person I’d known for almost thirty years, and the teeth, a newcomer in our midst.
Being very fond of rabbit, especially the way he cooks it, with onions, tomato, and just the right amount of cinnamon, I asked: How about cooking up a rabbit or two? He said: Don’t you know? The rabbits have been dead two months now.
They enjoyed the honeymoon quality of those afternoons—big clouds, pink sky.
She spied the thin-legged grasshopper, more like a praying mantis, and couldn't help comparing him to it: “Look at your friend there.” She pointed to the light green insect hanging gracefully from the wooden table.
It was dusk, the orange sky colored their faces. “Why can't you be more like him? Thin and graceful rather than your clompy self?” He laughed, shifting his leg now defined by the plaster cast.
“And when it's taken off on Saturday,” she continued, “make sure you don't try to fly again, because you heard what the doctor said. If it breaks once more, they’ll have to hold it together with screws.”
He pressed forefinger against thumb, pretending to flick. Then did. He sent the grasshopper flying.
Where eros overcomes the moment, it’s almost a force of gravity. You’re desired by the universe.
There’s no earthly nirvana without monumental patience. Arriving, it’s already almost gone.
Driving along the sea road this morning, I saw him swimming far out but moving in my direction. Unthinking, I nearly turned the car away from the road and out toward him. A small brownish body surrounded by water that played turquoise to jade.
We meet on the sun-heated steps at noon.
You have to dance the dance even when there’s no music. It can be a lame, droopy dance, but sometimes it gets going: you watch your limbs fly around, loose and hardly yours.
When all the children had left home, he adopted an African child. The bill came every two months; in the off-month, he received crayoned drawings and a form letter giving news of his "daughter". He pinned the drawings above his desk.
I never thought it would amount to anything like this—so large we live inside it. Walking the perimeter, we look at it for sharp painful seconds, then we’re inside again. Like swimming. Or being swum.
I wouldn’t have thought a body could stay afloat for so long; I had no idea there was so much water in the world.
Anne Germanacos completed an MFA at Bennington in 2003. Her stories and essays have appeared recently or are forthcoming at AGNI online, Black Warrior Review, Florida Review, Chattahoochee Review, Salamander, the Diagram, Pindeldyboz, and others. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. A story was the recent recipient of Fourteen Hills’ Holmes Award for Emerging Writers.
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