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Monday, March 5, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Ethel Rohan

Occupy Me

More news about Occupy Wall Street, Occupy San Francisco, Occupy Oakland, but no news today about Occupy Me. It’s bad, this butchered heart business. This he left me, but he stayed. He’s gone, but he fills me, marching and sign-waving.

I broke so many things in our apartment, mugs, plates, and framed photographs, reducing us to one. I swear pieces of the white turkey platter bought for our first Christmas together shattered into the letters of his name. I smashed those platter letters into smithereens and their dust recalled the fine white coat on his hair, lashes, and skin after sanding down walls all day long. He’d laugh, if he didn’t hate me, but I miss his paint-splattered overalls and the multi-colored granules they’d leave on the bedroom floor and on my bare feet like cupcake sprinkles. I miss his painter’s hands and what they could do to houses and to me. There’s something about a man who makes a living out of his hands, you know?

Our last conversation, Dad said I needed to be strong, said he’d never heard a girl cry so long or so hard, his voice disgusted-like and a little afraid. Dad doesn’t make his living out of his hands. He asked if I knew that this year Brazil had elected their first-ever female president. Dad lived in Madison and I in Berkeley, so why was he talking about some far away place and person? He repeated I needed to be strong.

“You wouldn’t do anything, would you?” he asked.
“Like what?” I said, knowing his last statement was as close as he’d go to anything hard to say.
Dad has stopped taking my calls, also in on the Occupy Me protests.

The other evening, my best friend, Sandy, brought over dinner—tri-tip and a salad with honey mustard dressing. My ex would have hated the dressing. Sandy and I drank a bottle of wine each, dark red that tasted like crushed blackcurrants. She told me about her new boyfriend, said he did things with his tongue—widest tongue she’d ever felt—that I wouldn’t believe. Said she could ask if maybe he had a friend.

“Well I hope he has at least one friend,” I said.

Sandy didn’t laugh. If my ex were there, he’d have laughed.

The truth is, Sandy and I drank two bottles of wine each. My second bottle tasted of licorice and chocolate and Band-Aid. Sandy said she wasn’t surprised he and I broke up. Said we were finished for a long time. That everyone could see. Said he’d always loved me more than I’d loved him, as if everything was my fault.

I told Sandy to get out. She left, but has haunted me ever since too, another sit-in at Occupy Me.

I keep going back to our last conversation together as a couple. I remember how wrong outside looked through the living room window. The enormous gray clouds appeared to be a mountain range growing out of the dark evergreen trees on the hill.
He’d let his hair grow and kept blowing his blond bangs out of his eyes. It wasn’t just his hair though, he was huffing and puffing, more furious than I’d ever seen him. Drown-in-me eyes like the Big Bad Wolf too.

“What’s the point to us then?” he repeated. “You don’t want to marry me, don’t want to have my children. So what? It’s been three years.”
“I want to just stay in the now. Now is okay, right?”
“Sorry, I need more than now and okay.”
“Now could be great if you’d only be content with what we have.”
“I don’t think we have a future together.”
“Who can say they have a future together? Who can know?”
He slapped his chest. “I’d die for you.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, and it was the first time my heart had ever talked.

Sometimes I imagine I get sick or I hurt myself, like lupus or a fall, and I’m collapsed on the kitchen floor. I see my ex shoulder down the apartment door. He drops to his knees next to me and rocks me in his arms.

“Baby,” he says into my long hair and I know he’s thinking how much he missed my papaya-scented shampoo.

In the emergency room, he tells the nurse I’m not his wife or the mother of his children and that’s enough. He says he should have known all along that was enough.

This morning, after more news about Occupy Wall Street, Occupy San Francisco, Occupy Oakland, but no news today about Occupy Me, I left for work and for playing at normal. I drove away from our apartment that’s now my apartment and beautiful terrible maple leaves of gold rot lifted from the windshield wipers and went flying falling. I drove faster, until all the leaves disappeared stayed.

Ethel Rohan is the author of Hard to Say (PANK, 2011) and Cut Through the Bone (Dark Sky Books, 2010). You can visit her at ethelrohan.com.


  1. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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