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What I Feel - Mary Julia

What I Feel

WHAT I FEEL

I hang up my coat after work, open the kitchen cupboards, not seeing anything except what is in my mind’s eye and that is not about getting dinner started. I would listen to music but it would make me mad, always about some heart broken or about to be heart broken or in love person. For every fifteen minutes of love in my life, I have had fifteen years of trouble. The love part is great, mostly the attention I get when he looks at me as if I am the sexiest, smartest, woman alive. Then I feel like the birds bathing in shallow pools along the river, splashing water, and flapping their wings. That is the way it always is in the beginning. Just like with the others, I don’t know what day this man stopped wanting to come home, started acting like he was mad all the time, stopped talking to me, fell asleep watching television when he did show up.

He acts like I’ve turned into someone who doesn’t deserve attention, someone who is lucky he comes home at night. He tells me that if I complain. He says I oughta know he loves me because he comes home at night, now, doesn’t he? Where else would he get sex from someone who is faithful to him? Of course he comes home at night but when did he stop wanting to take a bath and shave? When did he feel confident enough to come to the table looking like he slept under the bed? When did he decide I was not going anywhere anyway? I fall in love with men who look into my eyes, act like I am sexy and exciting, who wear clean clothes, shower and shave every day, comb their hair, and eat without laying on the table, who want to hold me, talk to me, go on walks or dance with me. I do not know what changes; do not know if it is something I do.

I know I should look in the freezer for meat or even keep fresh food in the fridge, but I do not like him anymore. Staring at boxes of macaroni and cheese, I wonder if I could poison him and not get caught. This isn’t the first time I’ve fallen in love with the man I’ve been dreaming about, married him thinking I was going to have a lover for the rest of my life.

Fuck it, I’m too tired to open a box of macaroni. He can open himself a can of soup. He is probably not coming home on time anyway. I will not know he is coming home until I hear his car in the driveway, smell grease when it comes through the front door.

Sitting at the kitchen table, I ask myself what I want but I do not have any answers. I see a black hole, an empty place instead of an answer. The refrigerator clicks on and starts humming. The wallpaper has large, yellow and green, flowers printed over a light yellow background. It is as ugly as it was the last time I noticed it. It was here when I moved in; there are tears in it, dirt that will not wash off. It is as garish as the happiness I imagine the woman who lived here before me exuded.

I know about women like that. They put on lipstick and eyebrow pencil before their husbands get home, their eyes are permanently shaped into crescent moons of delight. They usually have short hair and frizzy perms, are skinny and wear toreador pants with sleeveless polo shirts and flats. When their man is around, they are sweet and happy, always listening attentively, laughing when there is nothing to laugh at. I have watched them for years, cannot figure out why they act like that for men who don’t give a damn, or so it seems, because he usually gives me a wink and a smile when she turns her back.

She’s the kind of woman I imagine doesn’t know what it’s like to feel breathless and full of electricity when that particular man, the one I have not known until the moment I look up and see him staring at me finds his way across the dance floor and asks if he can buy me a drink. I feel his magnetism.  He takes the seat next to me and begins the dance that needs no floor. When the bar closes, he will ask if he can call me. He will not want me to go away without knowing when we are seeing each other again.

That other kind of woman could not possibly know what I know about the night, what runs wild when the rest of the world is sleeping, that the edges of passion are blurred and unpredictable, between a man and a woman, before the sun comes up. Sometimes I wish I did not know. I wish I were like those women who are happy to fix a drink with an olive and an onion for their good husbands who get home from work hungry and tired. They look happy sitting at the kitchen table listening to him complain about his day.

I have never been able to do that. I have tried. I listen for a minute or two and then I start thinking about kissing, wishing he would kiss me, wishing he would set aside his drink, lean over the table and kiss me on the lips, parting mine with his quick, warm tongue. When that does not happen I get mad because I want him to desire me. He will think I am unreasonable for getting mad about nothing. I know I should not get mad but I do not know how to stop it from happening. I do not want him or anyone else to know when I feel hurt because then I feel humiliated. I do not want him seeing how much I need his touch, how much I want skin against skin, hot breath in my hair, the feel of muscle and bone. First, I want him to look into my eyes and talk to me, not the kind of talk that made me mad in the first place but romantic talk about him and me. That kind of talk is a way of clearing the outside world away, of moving into each other’s field of vision while daily life recedes like the tide going out. Words are the beginning; touch takes over and is hot, wet, and sincere. Touching leads to kissing, leads to a feeling of being together in a universe we explore together but cannot name exactly. As long as it lasts, we covet those feelings, yearn for night to begin. It is what we think about when we are apart; it is the anticipation of the unknown and always changing journey into the wild, unbounded territory a man and a woman create by touch, taste, smell, the sea coming in and going out, a slow dance where nothing exists but the rhythm we create through exploration of the other.

I suppose I do know what I want; I just do not know how to find him or if finding him is always the beginning of losing him. Staring at the flat, ugly flowers in the wallpaper, waiting for the door to open, knowing tomorrow will begin another day of watching my life slip away, I can’t imagine I’ve touched him and lost him, can’t imagine he could touch me and ever go away. That is why I would almost rather be the woman who feels what she thinks she is supposed to feel and is happy that her life matches what she expects.

At night, when wild animals cross the open pasture boldly seeking what they need, they are not thinking about a future or repeating the experience. They are driven by hunger, primitive instincts they do not question or deny. I lie in my bed watching moonlight glide over the tops of sugar pines and stars fall out of the sky. Everyone is sleeping except the animals and me. I hear a quick, sharp cry from the other side of the river. It is my heart and only I can hear it.

Mary Julia Klimenko c.2010


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