By Caitlin Palmer
So the thing is, I think often of my friend, Minna. She lives in a two-story brick townhome, in the city. I live in a city too, but a different one; it might be more like a town. Her house has high ceilings, chandeliers. Her husband is a doctor. I think of her because, well, she is me, or as I could have been, the other side of my coin, the other face of Janus.
I don’t wonder if she is happy; I know she is not. I visited her once, a month or so ago, and we went to this restaurant for breakfast, and there was a metal grate over some incongruence in the street. Whenever cars went over it, it made a pop pop like gunfire. Two pops, like that. I guess one for the front set and one for the back set of tires. Anyway, it was not the popping, it was that she looked at her silverware more than her husband. Like it was very hard to cut things. She would be talking, saying something about the coffee, comparing its notes and blends to some other place’s coffee, and her husband would comment on a dog crossing the street or the dots on a little girl’s balloon, and Minna would look at him, first, or me, or just ahead, and then her eyes would drift up, as if her voice had been nothing and it had disappeared, like that little girl’s balloon into the sky.
• • •
Well, I am not the happiest, either. Both of us somehow, choosing different fates, still got the wrong end. When Janus has two heads maybe it’s always the other one that’s smiling. I live with several housemates. It’s a nice enough house. It’s just that I don’t have the money to live alone, to truly reflect the solitude I carry. Things have changed. I want to say that men have changed, but maybe they’re as they always were, only more stripped. Now instead of coquetry, sweet lies, some claim of intimacy, there is just sex. There’s no pretending it’s anything else. No comfort to hide your loneliness behind. I go somewhere, take off my clothes, am supposed to be grateful that this at least is happening, and often am, put my clothes back on. Sometimes I get to stay wherever it is and sleep next to a body. That is nice. But it used to be different once, I don’t remember. When I was young, I guess. When I believed it was possible that love was expressed in certain actions. I’ve been deliriously in love with boys. Held hands in the dark, cushioned someone’s head in my lap, played with their curls, cried for days. But I made a mistake. I left it, thinking those things could happen all the time—that my life would be filled with moments like that and they would mean the same things. They don’t
About the Author
Caitlin Palmer writes about place and disorientation, culled from her experiences growing up on a farm and attending the University of Missouri School of Journalism, to living on an island in Greece for an art program. She has had nonfiction published in Midwestern Gothic; and in the online journal, the museum of americana. Her piece from museum, “Inventory,” was selected for nomination to The Best of The Net 2016. She is currently an MFA candidate in Fiction at the University of Idaho.