In Five Years’ Time
I never figured out how to sit still in a car for long trips. I can’t remember anything I learned in school. I had two baptisms and one confirmation when I was 2, 12, and 15 to assure my mother I would get into heaven. I only pray for parking spots and more money. I can’t touch public trash cans. I can’t fall asleep for more than 4 hours at night. I can’t see the difference between red and green. I avoid the cracks in sidewalks.
You always fall asleep in the car, forehead pressed against the window, mouth slightly parted. You leave all of the cabinets open. You don’t know how to be happy, but you try so only I will know you’re not. You don’t know how to drive stick shift. You don’t remember what your natural hair color is. You don’t understand air quotes or how to use them. You pick at scabs, beer labels, and dried nail polish.
You smoke cigarillos when you drink. I can’t keep a secret. You get drunk off two glasses of wine. I don’t know how to tell the truth to a stranger. You wanted to read all of the authors with a Russian surname. I never thought you understood what they were trying to say. You hate how slowly I read and that I’ve never finished any book I started. I laugh at your face when you’re yelling. You try to hit me because you know I’m right. When you lie, you look up at the ceiling, like you’re trying to think of what to say next. I’ve lied so much you can’t tell when I’m telling the truth.
We skipped classes until our grades were so low we dropped out. We rented a room from friends of friends—an apartment with no heat and stained walls. We picked all of our furniture from curbs. We smoked cigarettes under a blanket while it snowed outside. We kept the lights off to save money, burning scented candles until the room became suffocating. We would fuck with the curtains open in the afternoon, always standing and never on our mattress. I never knew where I was supposed to be.
You drew sketches of nude women, thick lines and curves, wild hair. I rented a banjo, but never learned to play. We would sit outside on our porch at night with string lights. You told me you absorbed your twin in the womb and wondered if that meant you had split personalities or were a murderer. I told you I can’t sleep without dreaming about falling down a dark flight of stairs and waking up right before I hit the bottom.
You linger in front of your reflection. I don’t even brush my hair. You are scared of spiders, children, and parallel parking. I’m scared of being forgotten. You won’t throw anything away you paid for. You now care too much about money, where we can’t go and what we can’t do. I wish I could like food that I can’t pronounce or afford on a five-star menu. You went back to school for business when you realized art majors don’t make any money. I wrote a saga of unpublishable science fiction novels. You tried saving until I spent it all. We fought until my head ached and you could only lay on the floor. I was the one to realize that luck is the only factor that mattered in life and that neither of us had any. You wondered what the difference is between “living” and “existing.” You never wanted to admit we just existed.
Jade Freeman graduated from Emerson College with her MFA in Fiction. Her work has appeared in Paragraphiti, Rock & Sling, and Cactus Heart. She lives in Boston with her three dogs.