Underneath It

Temim Fruchter


You go see the rabbi because you think you might not be in love but you can’t get underneath it. You walk around thinking I’m in love or, god, maybe I’m not but I must be, and it’s eroding your sense of sun. You feel stiff with doubt, walk brittle with it. The rabbi has a reputation for seeing what most people can’t. At least that’s what the internet told you, and you’re willing to gamble. It’s medium raining but you don’t bring an umbrella because her office is close by, the second floor of a Park Slope brownstone, and you hate umbrellas.

Times have been excruciatingly superstitious. You’re attentive, afraid, can’t leave well enough alone. You’re well enough, but it’s not saying much. You alternate between staring into mirrors and avoiding them, sleeping with your feet facing the door or your feet facing the window. You’re looking for the answer directionally, meteorologically. You know it’s somewhere unspoken and unspeakable. You want to get underneath it.

It was at a friend’s birthday picnic where you crashed into love. She was eating a hot dog. Like an absolute story, those eyes. How she made even a t-shirt look assertive. Love the easy, the answer to an exact question, a marble, a message, kaleidoscopic. The world’s velocity, everything turned crimson and amber, deep breaths and sometimes a full stop, just holding. You wrote the longest letters then. Words so internal you became the envelope.

You curse your wet socks as you climb the soft stairs to the second floor. The rabbi is wearing a green sweater and a stern pair of earrings. She tells you to come in and sit down, asks you some questions and you answer them, but you are not much for words these days, and she can tell. That’s what she does, after all. Tell.

The rabbi has you close your eyes, and her tabby cat immediately jumps up into your lap. You need the healing, she needs the cat. Circle of need, you think, as blunt paws circle the tops of your thighs. You are ready for anything, you think. You are wide open. You nonverbally communicate this, as hard as you can, in the rabbi’s general direction. You sit for what feels like a long time in silence. Faintly, the smell of books and the whirr of a ceiling fan.

Finally, she asks you to open your eyes. The light hurts. The cat leaps off, quickly as she came. You look at the rabbi expectantly, because that’s the way you look much of the time right now. You are very open to this, she tells you. What else?, you ask too quickly, like the greedy words don’t hurt coming out of your mouth, like you’re not angry at no one. I think you need to consider the possibility that you’re not in love, she says. I think something might be going wrong.

True, there were moments you forgot what you needed. Times you were telling the wrong story entirely. Times when your imprecise hands and hers fumbled with the lights off, wildly missing all of the points. Times when the crying sounded like singing. Love the elaborate, the machine, vice grip, overgrowth. The two and a half times you abandoned one another completely, at least one of them smack in the middle of a sumptuous meal. The uneasy feeling of waking up against the cold window of a bus from New York to Washington, D.C., forgetting which way was going and which way was coming from.

You walk home slowly. It’s not raining anymore. You don’t call anyone even though you feel like you must have something new to say. You remember an exercise someone taught you once, something about self-trust. In the exercise, you are supposed to lie in bed and ask yourself Am I comfortable? It’s a basic question, one you should be able to answer, even when you’re doubt-riddled. Is the blanket soft? What about the sheets? You used to sleep on a foam mat because it fit so easily in your tiny Brooklyn bedroom, but you sucked it up and bought a bed as soon as you met her. An adult who is falling so quickly in love should have her own bed, you thought.

It’s still good to have a bed. You like to think you would have bought yourself a bed regardless. When you get home, you take off your shoes and peel off your clothes and socks. Rain smell on your hair, still. You climb into your bed, thinking about nothing much except the height of your pillows. Am I comfortable? Am I comfortable? You ask the question several times into the growing darkness, almost surprised when no one else answers.


Photo credit: Fid Thompson

Temim Fruchter is in the MFA program at the University of Maryland. She believes in magic and in queer possibility. Co-founder of the Mount Pleasant Poetry Project, her chapbook, “I Wanted Just To Be Soft,” came out on Anomalous Press in April 2016. Her work has appeared in [PANK], Tupelo Quarterly, The Washington City Paper, New South, jmww, The Account, Tishman Review, and others.