Nature: When you cry at night along with the stereo speakers that make the hardwood tremble underfoot. When you drink so much you squint at the telephone. When the other person, the one that worked those creases and smells into the couch cushions is gone, no longer a crease maker, no more a source of scent. Or when we thread our way over concrete paths that cut esses around headstones, smelling the sweetness of flowers but also that first caked-clay note of decay underneath. Or maybe it’s the indifferent odor, the all-encompassing neutrality, the almost non-smell of lichen blooming on stone. We try and tuck all those smells away, we turn our noses from the wilting lips of flowers. We hold whatever is in our bladders or bowels and stick to the path. After crying and speakers or drinking and empty chairs or walks through shadowy valleys, we do try. We conjure a mirror of your tears in the wetness brimming at the corners of our eyes. We ask for your hand on the scruff of our neck so you might scuff up a smell dragging some sweet memory in tow. We roll around the other side of the bed to upset the new stillness of night, to take up space, to scar over yesterday with today’s shedding. We are trying, to our bones we are trying, to imagine something greater than the love we feel for the fullness of our bellies. We conjure that giant light so that it flickers in our eyes, so that it shines on this new world of you and us, so that it doesn’t feel so much like a life less than.
Nurture: When we fail because our guts empty or our dry throats catch, that is when we pretend.
Matthew Fiander’s work has appeared in the Massachusetts Review, South Dakota Review, Yalobusha Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Hobart, Jellyfish Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Fiction Southeast, Exposition Review, Prime Number Magazine, Waccamaw Journal, and elsewhere. He currently teaches writing at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.