art by Eleanor Bennett
The Left Side of Your Lover's Broken Face
by Brynn MacNab
***Editor's Note: Adult language, sparingly used***
A story is a little tiny piece. A brick, a section of straight pipe, half a radiator. It should be an important piece; if it's not important, pick a different bit. If you can still tell what's important. A table leg. A trash can lid. The hose on the fire extinguisher. The left side of your lover's broken face. Or choose a moment: an epiphany of love or despair, a shift in loyalties, a bend in the world.
This is the moment of your lover's broken face, and the moment right before, and part of the one right after.
He, your lover, is in the dorm basement with me, your friend. He's not cheating on you. He never does, he's very decent that way. What we are actually doing is playing Ping-Pong.
You are out shopping, the afternoon your lover's face breaks. You are somehow never around for these things; and besides, you hate violence. And Ping-Pong.
Your lover says he can talk to me; he likes talking to me. And I like knowing him better than you know him. After all, he was my friend before he was your lover.
It makes you uncomfortable, me calling him your lover. Your boyfriend, as you put it; after all, how often do I think you make love? It's college, and your roommates are awkward.
But he does love you. He actually does, which I find rare and always unexpected. That's what I meant.
Ping-Pong doesn't last long. I can talk while I'm playing, once I get used to the rhythm, but he can't, so we stand for a while just talking across the table. We talk about politics and cows. About ink-stains, and exams, and green and blue, and women's shoes. And none of it makes sense. It's not the conversation that confuses me, not the sentences and paragraphs and words, those things are fine. The subtext is unfathomable.
Your lover's talking about you, but I can't puzzle out the clues to what he's saying. You know how it is; you've seen the scenes in movies, read them in books, when everything is a symbol for something else. All of these topics your lover brings up hold symbols for you, but none of them are matching up. Our conversation is like I imagine Literature exams in Hell.