Crooked Love: Pt.2

Crooked Love: Pt.2 1172 802 Dani Holway

“marry, and you will regret it; don’t marry, you will also regret it; marry or don’t marry, you will regret it either way.” – søren kierkegaard


I was nineteen and naïve; conditioned from a young age to believe
the pinnacle of one’s life looked a lot like a happy, committed
marriage with lots of babies. When I met the twenty-two-year-old
man of my carefully contrived dreams, it was no surprise that I
immediately hitched myself to what I perceived as the ideal hayride.
He was clever, and charming, and always sported this rascally grin
that left me weak at the knees. His eyes were unsettlingly obscure, to
the point of mystique, his hair always in slight disarray and tainted of
cigarette smoke. He was an irresistible bad boy, and seemingly well-
liked among our peers. He introduced me to the blitheness of alcohol
and the pleasure of sex and the value of laughter. We moved in
together after a year and he proposed two years after that.

When it Rains at Versailles
Versailles, Yvelines, Île-de-France
Chicago, Illinois

chicago gets roughly thirty-eight inches of rain per year.
these drops skip like rocks across my windowpane, their bodies
tumbling down the brick and mortar of my urban bungalow. water
leaves something to be desired. I prefer the leaves in autumn, their
spines splintering under leaded soles. my apartment was built in
1905, the same year people were born and died and wolves became
extinct in japan. sometimes, I imagine you leading me across the
lawn at versailles, our hands bleeding together like sidewalk chalk in
a thunderstorm. over the span of two months, five hundred and
ninety-one dogs were surrendered to chicago shelters by their owners.
wolves crave a carcass, a rotting conquest goring the earth. you’ll
find I sleep comfortably with a belly full of peanut butter and jelly
sandwiches. it’s only polite that you pay rent to occupy this much
space in my mind. strawberry jam. I’ve been abandoned by love five
hundred and ninety-one times. creamy peanut butter. the rain still
throbs outside my window, lightning like spider’s legs, silhouettes
spattered across my bedroom wall. sometimes, I wonder if it ever
storms at versailles. I hardly sleep in my own bed these days. in 2010,
I dragged the body of my drowned dog from my family’s swimming
pool. does it plunge into imperfection; into mud and mess? I prefer to
watch you sleep, to watch your chest bloom with breath like evening
primrose. I’ve lost count of how many times you’ve twirled me
spaghetti-limbed around the room. there’s a dog tracking in autumn
leaves damp from yesterday’s rain. you prefer grape jelly. I’ve never
seen japan, but I have been kissed by ravenous wolves. five hundred
and ninety-three minus two. watch your step on the train platform or
you’ll sink into the mud. chicago’s city skyline in thirty-eight inches
of rain. sometimes, I imagine us shoulder-to-shoulder sharing an
umbrella at versailles.


I found myself listening to the old voicemails a lot in the end. Brisk
love you’s and see you soon’s left me feeling comfortably numb;
hearing his voice proved less chilling through the sanctuary of a
phone speaker. It wasn’t always bad.

Chicago, Illinois

the hour should be longer, the light filtering through the
window more muted, the sun below our feet and the moon still
knotted tightly to spangled branches. instead, I untangle my legs
from yours and stand cold and uncovered from the comfort of your
sheets. I am already homesick as I glance back at your muddled
hair painted across your pillowcase, my bare feet resounding
cobblestoned and uncooperative across the creaking hardwood floor.
you timed the coffee perfectly the night before, the air tangy and
bloated with newly birthed bean water. our morning luxury. I always
add a little cream to mine. I pour the elixir into my white cylindrical
vehicle, my energy source, a vessel for my morning nectar. I feel the
spark plugs beginning to pop in my chest already. you will turn your
hat backwards and smirk and sink smitten into sidewalk bustle while
I begrudgingly tread terrified into a world of weighted words. my
daybreak dance followed by a day of diluted manic. until I’m back
under the lights dangling limp and alluring above your nest, our
charging station, a cessation from the harsh light of day and hours
pulled too long like putty.


One night when I was twenty-one, he left the karaoke bar with a
belly full of whiskey and I a hankering for my usual late-night
kryptonite: a sagging hot burrito, nix the onions. I asked if we could
stop on the way home to satiate my craving and he called me a
jealous bitch. Then he snapped my right index finger. I didn’t cry;
just wrapped it in the coarse medical cloth I kept on hand when I got
home, sans burrito, and buried myself in bed beside him.

Northern lights
Reykjavík, iceland

I imagine us standing slack-jawed somewhere north of reykjavík, the
same way a face mangles while thumbing through memories like old
film; memories of bedtime noir or water-colored ice cream cones.
ogling an onslaught of solar stars piercing our magnetic field, an
atomic symphony of color and light. I long to be so electric; to shift
from a peripheral shimmer to psychedelic. my hand quivers within
reach of yours but remains inactive. in these moments, like when I
water the house plants with the precision of a serrated knife, or when
ice fractures once laid with lukewarm whiskey, I feign buoyancy. the
particles cascade down, smearing neutral pigments across my fleshy
canvas, color hungry for high-voltage company, reconciled to stupor.
aurora howls; she spits and splutters at my world void of avant-garde
interaction. more quivering.

I imagine our stained-glass eyes like telescopes underneath the
surface of this hypnotic sea. from where we stand, still rummaging
the slush with frozen fingers for our fallen jaws, we can see the
horizon dimpled with sprawling bone-capped mountains. I long to
soar above them; to climb them with the same fragile force as I do
climbing into bed. will you boast your wingspan to suspend me as I
sleep? in these moments, when my eyelids begin to wilt next to your
body heat like moonflower, or when I sweep up the coffee grounds
and abandoned courage from my apartment floor, I feign realism.
I fall asleep beneath the atmospheric sheet cradling and cooing
at northern iceland, tucked into blues and greens and violets,
nightmares of a sky that’s slippery when wet, reconciled to reverie.
aurora sings this time; she muses over whether or not to kiss my
forehead for fear I will wake. my eyes remain closed.


I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve written and erased these
stories. Is one liable to give credit where credit is due? Do I dissolve
him, or would that absolve him, or is there even a difference? Does
assigning him a pronoun allow him to retain his power, or am I
permitting my own empowerment? These are the questions I ask
myself when I wake up, when I fall asleep, when I breathe. I’m tired
of writing about it. I don’t think I can possibly ever write about it

The house we built from bone
Sedlec Ossuary
Kutná Hora, Czech Republic


in 1870, the chicago white stockings make their professional
debut, their bats barking against balls wrapped in leather and
spindly lace. It’s the same year františek rint signed his name
in tibias and tarsals.


the snap of the bat reminds me of the moment my right index
finger warped under his whiskey breath and brawn. you
could hear that noise as clear as the battered church bells
suspended above that man’s morbid masterwork.


to our left, death endures.
to our right, death remains.


the chandelier looms overhead, coaxing and cadaverous;
a skeletal siren luring us beneath skinny smiles and thin,
fleshless extremities. my right index finger will look like
a twisted willow root once the muscle and tissue melt away.


nowadays, these gothic archways harbor knock-kneed fruit
bats. I imagine them spitting peanut shells and sloshing their
lukewarm beer atop rolling vertebral hills.


someone built this house of bone, amassed some forty
thousand bloodless bodies and fashioned them to stone.


I played soccer for roughly twelve years up until my junior year of
high school. I remember, during that last season after a decade of
goal keeping, the very moment my ribs splintered after my body was
mistaken for the ball by an opposing player. I dove to block the shot,
knees skidding and my arms swaddling the black and white sphere
the same instant her leg pitched forward, kissing my left side again
and again and again as she strained to free the ball from my hands.
Twelve seconds of chaos. A whistle blew somewhere and a flag
dropped. I was sure my chest had caved in; I was sure I was tumbling
into myself. I remember the pain pulsing up and down my spine. I
remember the breathlessness, the muscle spasms, the tears pooling in
my eyes and spilling onto my grass-stained jersey. I remember how,
years later, he laid me gently on the bed after having just pinned me
down with his knees on the hardwood floor, reigniting that same
breathlessness in my left side. He was so tender in the aftermath and
I welcomed his care; this time it was his tears, not mine, that pooled
and spilled onto my nightgown.


I watched the chicago cubs win the world series in 2016
beside a man I didn’t love in a backwoods vegas bar.
I shuddered every time I heard a bat crack to the delight
of a roaring crowd. he didn’t notice.


someplace in portugal, “melior est die mortis die nativitatis
is scrawled on a chapel’s crown. this roughly translates to
“better is the day of death than the day of birth.”
(ecclesiastes, 7:1.)


Sometimes I point at the stars and see my crooked right index finger
and the planets shudder on their axes.


Back when I lived in an old, precarious apartment building in South
Dallas, I heard a woman screaming for someone to stop one night. I
was giftwrapped snug and sweet in my comforter, hair in a messy
bun watching TV beside my snoring dog. I muted the opening jingle,
still unconvinced I heard correctly, before I creeped out into the
hallway. The ruckus was unmistakable amongst a symphony of cries
and yelps and broken glass. I ran back into the safety of my home
and called the police. A half hour later, an officer knocked on my
door to verify the information I had given to an operator. When I
asked how she was, the officer explained to me that she had
answered the door coy and coolly. She told them that it was a small,
standard spat — nothing to be concerned about. I insisted there had to
be something more they could do, and to my dismay they told me
what I already knew. “She has to make the choice. Until she realizes
it for herself, there’s nothing we can do.”

Header photograph © Elanna Conn.

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