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Why Do We Return, Why Do We Stay? by Brittany Harmon | Word Riot

December 15, 2015      

Why Do We Return, Why Do We Stay? by Brittany Harmon


I was not good at waiting or using chopsticks. I blamed my mother for my personality flaws. I counted my way through day-to-day actions. My OCD has never been properly treated.


You were not good with apologies or book suggestions; everyone’s read Bukowski. Your porn consumption gave me migraines. Your opiate dependency made me jealous.


Within a year, I moved from Philadelphia to L.A. to Boston. I couldn’t commit to a city. I couldn’t even commit to yoga class. My commitment to you was therefore baffling.


We read Victorian ghost stories before bed. You played the mandolin while I pressed cider. We visited dead writers’ homes in New England. You cooked for me every day after you realized how terrible I was at cooking.


I was too curious for my own good. I wish I were a cat so it would have killed me. But my death was strictly spiritual. Ignorance really is bliss.


Your love letters to other women didn’t entirely shock me. After all, that is how I ended up here. Still, the betrayal felt excessive. You were swollen with secrets.


The first time I cheated on you I felt exhilarated and corrupted, like a middle schooler shoplifting. I was still banned from Kohl’s and Target, a fact my parents couldn’t ignore when we were Christmas shopping together and I waited in the car like a dog. I was alarmed by the lack of guilt I felt towards you and Kohl’s and Target. I guess that’s because my indiscretions felt deserved.


Infidelity was something I never thought myself capable of. Like ending sentences with “of.” Afterwards I’d come home and hold you, afraid of the bitterness that accompanies aging. You snored through these moments, indifferent to where I’d been.


When you left I bought a new toothbrush to keep mine company. I changed the locks, but then sent you a key. I broke the bookcase just to have something to repair. I kept brewing too much coffee.


You wasted no time setting up online dating profiles. I was still reading your emails. You responded to explicit Craigslist personal ads. It wasn’t long before you relapsed.


Our reliance on needles was admittedly troubling. When I wanted to cut myself, I tattooed entire limbs. When you couldn’t bear the mere weight of existence, spoons went missing. It wasn’t so much the heroin that upset me, but the utter cliché you had become.


Still, there I stood impatiently at the methadone clinic while you shook. Slowly your loose clothes were hung back in my closet. You dropped out of grad school. The Berklee sticker remained on your car as proof that you were once worth something.


Parents always warn against saying things like “I hate you,” that it’s something you can’t take back. Yet how thoughtlessly did those words scream from our mouths, floating out the window and into the neighbor’s next door. How embarrassing. How textbook.


We moved to New York because that’s where people go to change. Because artists say it’s cathartic. Because its noise could compete with our own. Because the people are just as broken.


I was still not good with recipes. My neuroses were growing like weeds. I cried when we didn’t have sex. I still didn’t know how to sew.


You were still not good with birthdays or emergencies. You couldn’t be bothered by wrapping paper or my benign occipital epilepsy. I bought myself flowers. I took myself to the ER.


Neither of us believed the other capable of creating transcendent work. I imitated Jonathan Safran Foer. You imitated Robert Pollard. All art is theft anyway, or so I’ve heard.


We rescued a pit bull. You endured the religious agenda of NA. I made friends. We took the prescriptions after we realized how terrible we were without the prescriptions.


Laying in the grass in Central Park, I wonder if you’re wondering what I’m thinking. I pluck daisy petals like a child. Why do we return, why do we stay? Your hair is starting to gray.


He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not.

BH_HollywoodAbout the author:

I am a writer and graduate student living in Connecticut. My work has previously been published in The Philadelphia Review of Books, Monkeybicycle, Dogzplot, and Sundog Lit.

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