A Matter of Perspective’, T.C. Powell

Illustration © 2015 Cécile Matthey



 [ Perspective, © 2015, Cécile Matthey ] Sullivan was his name and he wasn’t real. His lips did not taste of ripe pear and his fingers did not trace my ribs like a harp. Michelle, my wife, reminds me of this, as we lounge at the kitchen table in our bathrobes eating schmeared, too-toasted bagels and drinking black coffee. Virtual reality was a game, a toy, and those fantasy worlds were nothing more than interactive stories. You didn’t watch Swan Lake, conclude that you were a swan and fly away, did you? Of course not. Then why would you call an equally fictitious Sullivan real?

Yet if I dreamed about him spooning me, his smooth chest flush against my skin, and if our bedroom conversations filled me with purpose and esteem—the way he called me beautiful and made me believe it…

When we first made love, he (there was no he; there was hard light; there were ones and zeroes and some author’s imagination) was playing Rachmaninoff on a baby grand while I tried to drink my sweet tea before the ice melted. It was Atlanta, July, and sweltering (it was Milwaukee, same as now). Sullivan was a student at Julliard back for summer. I was a bartender; we met at the bar. He’d come on to me, which I didn’t understand at first—I’d never been with a man before (you still haven’t, you goofball)—and I was frightened. Not of him but of the parts of myself that I’d never questioned or explored, that I simply thought were natural, and set, and upon which I could rely. I thought I knew myself, and it was the not knowing that—

He stopped playing, the last low chord lingering in my spine. I could smell the nasturtiums in the garden on the humid air, swirled by slow, swooping ceiling fans, droning like lazy bumblebees. It wasn’t even dusk but I knew he wanted me. I set the glass, slick with condensation, onto the coffee table and turned to him as he came. He leaned me back against the couch, took off my glasses and kissed me, his stubble against my tongue. He sucked my top lip into his mouth first, then my bottom. His hands, on my shirt at my buttons, then lower at my jeans, I wanted them—

Michelle clucks and pitches the rest of her bagel into the garbage. The trash is full to overflowing, so she reminds me that I have to take it out today, and do the dishes, and the laundry, if I’m not too busy daydreaming. I tell her I will.

There are some parts of me that Michelle will never understand, could never understand. But that was true of Sullivan, too.

I quit the program but save my progress. I want to come back to Michelle later to do those chores. That is an important life to live, too. Or as Michelle would have it, an important story. But first some time with Sullivan.

I hear him playing now.


© 2015, T.C. Powell

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