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Keshavarz & Huber – Win.10

Hope Keshavarz and Rose Huber traded art. Hope sent Rose this painting:

And here’s what Rose wrote in response:

River Water

I.
Some boats don’t sink.
They rift and wave
across currents
at night, back and forth
until they’re lost.

Some boats think
they are rafts.
So small, they could disappear
under the weight
of water flooding.

Most rafts want to be boats.

Both carry people [like you]
who never seem to drown.

II.

You remember the tunnel, don’t you. The one that used to make us feel small. The one where we’d hold our breath until the other side. The first time, you called the moon a speck. Then, a headlight.

Someone painted stars on the ceiling. Or maybe they were silver cracks. Swim across, stop in the middle, float on your back and breath. Pretend the water isn’t cold, the tunnel won’t fall and your body can’t sink. Be moving, calm and turbulent at once.

What about your feet on sidewalk. The sidewalk, on the sides. Only worker feet were allowed there, feet hiding in steel toes. I said, if the tunnel was breaking, someone would build it back. You said it was the tone of us. The feeling behind I missed you and we are safe here. You said: remember the tunnel, won’t you?

III.

Polly wanted the moon to fill her up like ice cream. She wanted to take the big dipper, scoop out the good parts and fill her stomach with icy, cold cream.

* * * *

Rose sent this story to Hope:

The Campsite

Joe treats his separation with Elizabeth the way he camps in the woods. He packs a bag with extra shirts, soap that doubles as toothpaste and moves to the guest room. Sleeping on the extra bed, he finds the springs somewhat better than tree roots in December. He decides against using a blanket at night to see if body mass will be enough. He’s carried 15 extra pounds for the past three years, a hairy stomach Elizabeth never seemed to mind but instead enjoy. This should be enough.

For the three weeks before she leaves, he wakes up next to her. It is either at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. that she enters the guest room, undresses and lays her thin body next to his. She had recently cut her hair short, the curls matted along her forehead. He does not waste time in performing. He recognizes the new smoothness of her skin only after they’ve made love, and she is asleep. Some nights, when she is most lonely, she will speak to him in small words. She says a simple, “I’m sorry,” and he takes her hand and kisses it, letting his lips linger.
In the morning, he always leaves the bed before she does. He goes to the kitchen, fixes himself a coffee (often with a shot of whiskey) and makes toast. When he returns to the guest room for breakfast, and she is already in the shower. Her clothing is wrapped within the blankets. He smokes a cigarette and admires the blunt beauty of bread.

He thinks about when Bob Dylan met his “Brownsville Girl.” How he could sing of their experience and see how strange it was that “people who suffer together have stronger connections than people who are most content.” What would Dylan say if he saw Joe’s true contentment? His morning coffee and cigarette. His toast, how ordinary and pleasing it was.

She comes to the guest room the last night before she leaves. It is 3:30 a.m., and Joe is already unclothed. She makes a quick gesture with her hand, bringing it to her eyes. “Jesus, Joe Put your clothes on.” It is the first time she seems repulsed by his body; he examines his chest for abnormalities and, after finding none, reaches for his shirt. She sits on the edge of the bed, her legs dangling just above the floor. She is small and hunched, despite the metal rod in her back that keeps her straight.

“This isn’t because I’m interested in women,” she says. He smiles. The thought, which has occasionally crossed his mind, has never discouraged him.

“This is just two people who want different things,” he says, knowing that handling her body will not be different. He moves behind her, his stomach pressing into her back. He rubs her shoulders. She sinks further into the mattress before he applies more pressure. Eventually, she lies down and removes her shirt.

“This is the last time,” she says.

“I know that.”

“This will not always be so easy.”

“It won’t,” he says, kissing her neck in circles.

“You know this is because I’m lonely. This has nothing to do with you.”

“I know.”

When they have completed, she lays her head on his chest and falls asleep. This is the moment he remembers: curls in his mouth, her smell on his skin. He wonders if there is a future in this. Instead, he goes to the kitchen and makes his breakfast a little earlier than normal.

And here’s what Hope painted in response:

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