Rob Lithim Used to Be Two People
by Brynn MacNab
***Editor's Note: Adult language and adult story***
He stood momentarily lost in the heavy beat of the club, lights and bass line pulsing together. On stage longhaired boys screamed and writhed and clutched their guitars, while a mass of bodies bounced before them. Nearer Rob, by the bar, a few sweaty lonely folks had peeled off from the crowd to converse in shouts and homemade sign language.
Ahead, he caught sight of Tam's short spiked hair and the tattoo breaching the space between her mesh tank top and low black jeans. He put his hand on her bare shoulder. She ignored him and kept on talking to the man in front of her--this non-entity with his dark eyeliner, his many earrings, the self-satisfied set of his shoulders--kept on talking to him until Rob got angry, so he held onto that shoulder and let his anger flare, flash-flood through him, and she turned around fast enough then, mouth forming a, "What the fuck?" obliterated by the sound of the band. She did not touch him even to slap him, but stood staring accusations with her eyebrow ring lifted.
Instead of apologizing he kept his gaze off of the new scar on her shoulder, handed her the note, and backed away.
In the workroom, in its dust and dimness, in the beat of his own breathing, he meditated on this mantra: Till death do us part. The soothing insistence seeped through his bones, skull to ribs, pelvis to knees. Till death do us part. Something ordinary people would swear to, and nothing to fear. Nothing of which to be ashamed.
He shook his head at the squeak of the door, pinched the bridge of his nose once, and silently promised to believe this time in reassurances. And the two shall be one--it couldn't be such a sin, after all. Not put like that.
She stood silhouetted, skinny in the sunlight.
"Tam. Thank you."
"You fucker. My fucking shoulder. Looks like a dragon-baby spat up on me." She shrugged the offended body part forward to show him.
"I love you." It was all he had to offer for explanation. When light had broken that morning he'd given up on assessing emotional nuance. These three were certain: his heart held in the crook of her elbow; his life locked in the line of her lips; his brain blighted and boiling when she spoke to another.
"Whatever. The note said you want to go back again."
"Once more. I feel strange. I still feel guilty. It's weird, because I know--"
"Okay, once. But that's it: once and then we're through. And then you leave me the fuck alone. I got a right to move on too, you know."
"Only once more," he agreed.