Fragments of language and story extracted from the body
–by Temim Fruchter
Questions for Completion
Jonathan’s soul had become attached to David’s soul, and Jonathan loved him as himself.
And Jonathan said to David, “Tomorrow is the new moon, and you will be remembered, for your seat will be vacant.”
And the king sat upon his seat, as at other times, upon the seat by the wall, and Jonathan arose, and Abner sat down beside Saul, and David’s place was vacant.
–Passages from Samuel I, chapter 20
Does it fit?
The room is tiny with a window pressed against an alley full of pigeons. Like a box, it fills easily with the blue dark all except for one diluted slat of moon through the crack between the buildings. Two people can fit. Two people come in together from the cold. The walls bend with the sudden impact of warm on empty, the newest float of songs on the twin pillows. Two people can fit. Two people can fill this room to capacity. They don’t have to, but they can. They can eat with forks and wine glasses and red pepper and thick brown sauce on the bed between the blankets holding hands because it is the only place to eat in this room, and because it makes the winter rounder and less lonely. Two people can be four hands can be sticky fingers turning inward and then outward, paper bowls, fat steam, sauce. They can finish and lick spoons and fall asleep, full and still humming. And slowly, so slowly, the room will expand to hold them, together, and along with everything they carry.
Is it finished?
I’m trying to make it sharp. I’m trying to make it sharper. I’m trying to make it pierce through, make it angle, make it announce itself. I can’t do it bare handed, so I’m using a tool, a block of blunt wood. It hurts my hands a little with its unforgiving shape and texture, but it has a smooth sheen and smells a little bit like cedar, and I like to run it across the pillows of my palms.
Blunt wood on bone is unsettling. It is not soft but it certainly makes no sound. The evolution of a bruise, slowly. I push my wood tool into me, into you, into everything, trying to find and understand with my body the shape of a knuckled ridge, or of force itself, bright and dumb around the knotty edges. It feels like sharp will never be sharpest. Like I will never be finished.
Fork. Spoon. Knife. Plate. Glass. The heavy ding of silver on the oak table. Napkins thick as hand towels. Silver platters of quail slicked with fat dotted with herbs and golden raisins. Plums and olives in heavy wooden bowls. Barley stewed in broth made of garlic and leeks. Dandelion wine. Cakes built layers high with dates and nuts and honey.
Everywhere, the fancy choreography of seating.
He is missing.
Everything heavy sweet swings around his empty chair.
It isn’t a question of where David is, exactly. Jonathan knows where he is, knows where he’s fled, the way you know the dread of imminent loss or the proximity of a lover’s skin. It’s more the explosion of David’s absence into the unfilled space, becoming the heaviest thing in the lavish room, the amplification of everything else.
Not gone, exactly, but gone to him. Not here. They will not be to one another. They will not look at one another across this table. They will not hold bread share covers make jokes tie knots drink wine open windows and later close them when night cools their room. They will not finish. Not ever. Jonathan feels the prongs of his fork touch his plate through the thick of the meat.
They will not finish.
Knowing this for the first time is stunning.
But does it fit?
The bathtub stands on claw feet and is meant for one. Two can fit but they have to pile or braid or knot or press in such a way. Two can be knees out of water, can be pressure, can be transformed, can feel perfectly held by something otherwise unforgiving. Two can read to one another out loud, soap shifts and water breathes. The acoustics are like outer space with the lights out and the candles high and the automatic way their voices quiet when anyone passes the bathroom, like what they’re attempting has never been done before, like they are telling a new kind of secret.
No one is ever totally immersed, of course, but no one ever falls out.
But is it finished?
I am an open circle.
We are not finished. No.
It was just that we were talking, and I was pushing us into morning, and then we ran out of words. Or what words we had melted. Or we couldn’t figure out the answer. Or there was no answer. Or we fell asleep. It was just that the circle came back around from the ending to the beginning and no one knew exactly where to stop.
I can’t lie still now. This is a literal unstill, because I start shaking when I don’t know the ending, first in the shoulders and in the arms and then down. I am wracked. Drafts and drafts and drafts. We are unended. I close my teeth. This is to try to clamp my body into submission. But my body knows a hanging story. My body knows a haunted draft. So my body shakes like electricity.
My body can’t rest until there’s an ending.
But what’s missing?
I miss you. It is not a verb, to miss. It is a shape. It is where a shape once was. It is a widening that won’t narrow. It pulses there in the middle of where you would be, the echoes of your exquisite shape, your implied girth. You are almost more here in your absence.
The particulars of you: belly, lap, collarbone, neck, toes. Everything in screaming color. The sharpest.
The truth is, though, we are not sharp. We will never be as sharp. We are soft and round and imprecise. There is no metric that accounts for our bulges and our hungers, our dishonesties and our desires. We are so blurry, the air forgets us, forgets how we fit. How we perfectly fit.
But still I save you a seat. And still, the dented pillows sing.
And does it fit?
Jonathan says it to the air like a question and an answer both. How the dishes stack into one another, how the napkins fold back up, how David’s chair slides perfectly into the table without anyone in it.
Long after everyone has gone, a kind of sound beating hard in all of the wide open places where voice once was, and a kind of color where there was skin.
And in his room, and in the bath, and in his bed, Jonathan fits perfectly, just one. There are ghosts, certainly, but there is plenty of room for everyone in this breathing endless dark.
And does it end?
Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe we sit across a table. Maybe we drain the tub before the water gets cold. Maybe we aren’t finished. Maybe the shape doesn’t need to be precise. Maybe the circle is unclosed. Maybe warmth is generated from the most exact unfit.
This small room is quiet tonight.
The pigeons keep their distance.
My heart is waiting.
And I am hardly shaking at all.