Psychopomp Magazine Spring 2014 | Page 7

Jennifer Clements | 3

The day our skin crazed like lead paint on aged wood, I asked you whether you knew this would happen when first we met. We had been so new, so polished then, with marbled eyes kissed by butterfly lashes. We’d been a matching pair. It seemed bizarre, exceptional, that we would wither so suddenly—when just before, we’d worn our faces smooth, soft to the touch and to the glance. I handed you a compact and you tried to cover my crackling skin with pigment, but it just rubbed off on the lapels of my blouse, stained the shoulders, the lace trim. So then I handed you a tube of oil paint, but you refused to color me. I still want to see you, you said. Even like this.

The day our teeth fell into our mouths and our words became cluttered with small white stones, we laughed at ourselves and our inability to say the simplest things. We spoke in faces, in touch. Our eyes blinked magnificently at each other, marbles sheathing and unsheathing their glossy flecks. We crossed our eyes and flapped our hands and used the few statements we knew in proper sign language, a choreography of fingers meaning I Love You or Pass the Milk.

On the last day, the knuckles of our hands and feet seized up as new glass, and our jaws clasped to close the puzzle pieces of our gums down on themselves. One of us had started to speak, but did not finish. Your hand held mine, and we both could feel the vines of rigidity ensnaring our joints, locking us in place. I thought of the music box I’d owned as a child, with the porcelain figures holding each other by the fingertips, their painted expressions surprised to find their love immobilized by the tinkling notes of a song everyone knew as a lullaby. The sleep wasn’t meant to be so thorough, they seemed to say.

Our eyelids closed last, the slow overgrowth of skin we knew to expect. A covering of vines and weeds. A baby doll tilted on her back, eased into sleep. Such an easy transition from day to night, so effortlessly subdued. Ours is a drawn-out process, and only little by little do we find our sleep. Someday, we might be discovered here, old and broken and cast aside, but holding each other, holding on to the parts of ourselves that cannot shatter or harden or close. We’d have our own music box, and we’d be the figures: peaceful, together, undisturbed. I try to tell you this, without words or gestures or glances, the way I’ve told you a thousand things across our bed, from my sleep to yours, for so many nights over the years. And it must be for this, for this moment, that we’ve had so much practice.