He: A Collection
by Veronica Fitzhugh
The mist from the overhead sprinkler makes the strawberries plump and shine.
“I have to remember to take some home. She loves big strawberries,” he thinks as he rifles through the new produce, turning each piece just so.
“I have to remember to fax her paperwork to the school. So proud of her going back to school! I hope she doesn’t grow weary of me with her new–No, she loves me.” He smiles as he places a sign about the daily special on potatoes in its bushel.
“I have to remember to ask Carl to clean out the cooler soon. Where is Carl?” his brow creases as he thinks about how he can never find his elderly assistant.
Sensing his displeasure and multitasking, she sends him a mental message via their special love connection.
“Also, you have to remember to have fun, stay in the moment, and cut Carl a break.”
He sneaks a strawberry into his mouth and grins, relishing its ripeness.
II. The Struggle
“Is this what you really want?” She sighs, looking up into the blinding afternoon sun. “‘Cause I am not ready.”
She walks away from him.
He follows, wordless, still clutching her bag.
III. Butterfly Potential
What is going on that there are all these dead caterpillars this afternoon? What is going on that I am noticing them all?
I wonder if he notices them too. I wonder what he thinks of all this death on such a warm spring day. I wonder what he really thinks of morbid me.
I shiver and reach for his hand.
He says, “Hold on.”
He bends and gently pokes a caterpillar with his finger.
“Isn’t it dead?” I ask anxiously.
“Not quite,” he answers as the caterpillar remembers movement and crawls into a patch of grass at the path’s edge.
“What made you pick that one?”
He smiles, takes my hand, and pulls me away.
IV. She’s Gone Missing
After hearing “get out” enough, you eventually leave.
“Is your friend ok?”
“My brother was gay. He used to upset us by dressing up in drag, but it made him happier to be that way. Then, he moved to–”
“Moved or thrown out?” I wonder silently.
“Florida, to live on the streets. Guess it made him happier to be that way.”
“Oh God, what kind of home life did they have?”
“We always thought he’d be killed in the Tampa streets. Instead, he died of cancer.”
V. His Story
He wonders why no one ventures to sit next to him on the bus.
Ventures is my word, not his.
I think his word is “wants.”
I don’t use the word “want” anymore… especially in my writing. It has a sort of whiny twang that bangs on my ears and turns my inner monologue into desperation.
This story is not about me. It is about him and all his loneliness and regret and… want.
VI. Just A Moment
“Let’s just sit here for a minute.”
He closes his eyes and rubs his temples.
From across the table’s wreckage, she watches him . . . needing him . . . needing him to—
She looks down at her peeling arms and puts her hands over the flaking skin She clears her throat and announces, “I have mange.”
He smiles but does not open his eyes.
VII. Selective Memory
She bumps her head. She selects her memories.
She chooses to forget his crooked mouth.
He taught her how to whistle. She no longer remembers how his mouth mockingly smiled at her about being an adult non-whistler. She no longer remembers thinking how film noir it was for him to tell her to just pucker her lips and blow. She no longer remembers a carefree, he-loves-me day requiring a good whistle. She forgets to whistle. She forgets his mouth.
Bit by bit, she forgets him…the astronomy connecting his brown back freckles, the sticky sweet of his morning smell, and the secret story of the scar on his right hand.
And, in the blank spaces of her mind, she plants red poppies and forget-me-nots.
VIII. Why We Broke Up
We stopped accepting each other’s half-hearted apologies.
He stopped looking for me first in a crowded room.
I pretended to snore in response to his reaching.
Eventually, our affections were pinned on a stranger.
IX. Del Mar
He sleeps. In his dreams he is free of me?
His dream girl dances on his inner eyelids and lets him swim to her shores and sip from her shells.
Then, she undulates to him as he begins to drown.
He awakes to me with a shudder and complaints of sleep apnea.
X. Strangers in a Writing Group
People sitting in a circle, sharing thoughts they think the others feel are important and impressive.
Minimized moments choked against his chest, moving along his hair line, shading secret scars.
She wonders how he breathes so deeply while saying nothings bitter and harmless.
Then, he makes her smile in her eyes, and his banality is forgiven.
Water color lilies lace my heart lines, filling my arteries with whimsy.
Will I explode from the delight that is he?
Or, will it melt down to manageable mundane menthol matters?
Dull destructive detonation strikes again–leaving me squirming and screaming for all.
XII. Revolution Cuddled
He observes the world. He laughs, without a smile. Irony’s copper taste grips his teeth.
When will it end?
He finds me and buries his head in my sweet citrus circles.
Softness flatters again.
Veronica Haunani Fitzhugh is an author, activist and good friend keeping busy saving the world and sipping sweet tea on her front porch in Charlottesville, Virginia. She holds a BA in English from the University of Virginia. There, she won a Jefferson Cup for her story telling. She is a certified storyteller for nami’s In Our Own Voices project. She founded Peer Review, a literary and art magazine for the Charlottesville recovery community. Her work has appeared in 3.7, Piker Press Magazine, Gadfly, Best New Poems, Blognostics, and the women’s initiative’s Challenge into Change 2013 anthology. She blogs regularly at cvillewinter.wordpress.com, a page featured in wordpress’ freshly pressed, and also guest blogs at other sites.