Safety in numbers

      There is a couple that lives across the alley from me. Their deck almost parallel to my living room window and I only see them every so often. They give me feelings I cannot quite describe.  I watch them wander onto their deck and you can tell they have the same sickness but different symptoms.

      He never wears a shirt. Even in the rain, never a shirt. There’s something about his skin that creates a stir within me.  He is so skinny that gravity pulls his skin down, like an old wool sweater washed a few too many times. The threads have grown coarse and limp so they just hang. His hair hangs limp and greasy over his eyes so I have to create an image in their place. I usually imagine his eyes cold. Not dark or vicious, just cold. Tranquil and still, maybe even determined but with no direction. His jawline is boyish, like he never quite grew into it. Teased mercilessly for having a ‘babyface.’ I know he must be older than he looks.

      All the short glimpses I have had of her are hazy and hard to recall. She is almost so plain, she is unmemorable. Maybe she likes it that way. Maybe in school, she developed earlier than everyone else. The boys would tug at her, shaming the puberty she had beat them to. I imagine this has scared her into looking dull and drab – never quite doing enough for her appearance to be noticed.


      Coincidentally, she is always wearing one of HIS shirts. Like she is in a constant state of leisure. I think she is scared of the outside. She always hangs by the screen door so the succubus cannot reach her. It waits to absorb her from the safety of the apartment. She is never outside without him.

      There is such a longing in both of them, but im not sure its for each other. They are never direct. There is a slow exchange of casual motions and gestures. It’s like they’re dancing around each other in a tangle of eye contact. I never hear what they say, so the dialogue between them is left to my imagination. He often looks like he lectures her. Not in the way a parent lectures their child, but with a manipulative disposition. I imagine he makes comments about what the cigarettes are doing to her insides, while he hypocritically takes a drag of his own. She is submissive and never rises to the occasion of putting him in his place. She is unable to lay claim to the same flaws she sees in him. If she believes in anything, she believes he is truth. The attention she craves from him is mirrored. He enjoys being the dominant one although, he’s not a sadist. There is genuine care in his body language, but it comes from a place that longs to be strong and masculine for her. To be the sturdy structure another human being leans on. A safe haven.

      It is a cycle. Neither one is a host, nor the other a parasite. It is a polluted, symbiotic relationship. But something makes me think, it must be forgiving.

 I don’t grieve for many people,
I don’t mourn the pieces killed in you.

~Sage Francis


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