A Slow Kind of Unravelling

Amy Butcher

I was standing on the cold, dark tile of the bathroom floor when I realized I didn't know how to live without him. It was Sunday. I was barefoot, brushing my teeth. What happened was this: I decided that if I were one tile, and he was the tile caddy-corner to mine, and we were cemented like that, there on the ground, I wouldn't know how to live. He'd be too far away. This is what I found myself thinking: We could not be tiles that are not right up against one another.

It was crazy.

So I got in my car and drove. There didn't seem to be another option. I had this idea then that maybe I was losing my mind, like maybe I'd gone bonkers, and then the next logical thought, of course, was that of course this was all his fault.

Even when it doesn't I find it always comes back to him.

It was early, that time of day when the roads are empty, no cars. The interior of America was still sleeping in their twin beds, and I was panicking like I'd gone crazy, so I did my best to picture them, sweaty and bloated with sleep. It was a trick my mother taught me—I was five the first time she did it, placing her arms above my shoulders, pressing deep into my skin.

What people don't say when they talk about love is how it's not always a good thing. This is something that goes largely unrecognized in television shows and movies; always the love is a good thing at first, it later becomes a good thing, with a man jumping a fence or throwing pebbles at a window or making pancakes shaped like a heart.

The first man I ever loved—he made me pancakes shaped like a heart. But he did it eveery Sunday and eventually they didn't mean a thing anymore, because really, how could they?

They were as predictable as Taco Night.

This man couldn't make pancakes, probably not even from a box. That's not an exaggeration. He couldn't make pancakes and he couldn't make French toast. It always came out too wet. But he could make spaghetti with red sauce from a jar. He'd made that for me on several occasion, and always I ate it happily, slurping the noodles loud from my fork as they unwound and loosened from the prongs. He was the first man I'd ever known who did not care if I was not polite, and so I loved to slurp in his kitchen, knowing my slurping was not an issue.

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