Fiction by Christopher Heffernan

I took one of the mugs from the drainboard and put it in the cupboard then took another one.  I thought maybe I should hide this one.  It was not really my mug but it was not really his mug and now it was not really anyone’s mug since when I was coming out of the bathroom and thought he would still be in bed but he wasn’t there having left while I was in the shower and thought, Thank God, seeing the empty bed and felt so good being there alone that I took off my robe and got back under the covers, ignoring my work and lay there looking at the window as the day got lighter, not caring where he went.  Not realizing until later that he didn’t tell me he was going.  And then not caring about that either.  It could have been six months leading to it.  It could have been a year.  I was in and out with us before and after in ways I did not keep track of.  Small cuts, giving and received.  A text I should’ve sent but didn’t.  A show I was at he should’ve come see but didn’t.  The looks and touches at parties and alone that stopped or were held back or just awkward and forced.  The mug was still in my hand as I looked behind the drainboard to see if any filth or mold had collected there, and there was, so I pulled everything away from the wall, thinking that he didn’t clean, but I didn’t clean, but I want to say I cleaned more than he did but that might not be true and at this point it really didn’t matter since our place went along clean enough.  So, I guess we were fine at being tidy.  I say under my breath, just barely audible, that it doesn’t matter.  I put the mug down and find a sponge.  There will always be a we and it’s silly to think that there won’t be as it is only that the parameters change not with how actually close one is to the other, physically, in this State, across the country, whatever, but with how much you think of the other, and how those thoughts happen, and what they are made of.  I will think of him.  Quite a bit and hate that.  The thoughts made of parties from the past, jewelry he had given me that I do not wear anymore or a pizza we once shared.  Then less and less.  Then far away.  Space, time, etc going until some strange thing brings it back.  A sign for an antique store with a G that looks like his handwriting.  I will not volunteer for it.  Not for a very long time anyway.  And we will be this silly we again.  The we of having been apart for three, five, six years.  And there is the we of not thinking of the other at all, also.  “How’s he doing?” someone will ask and I will realize his absence has been there all along.  An unknown weight.  Pulling at me from behind. The dirt and mold come up and I wonder if I should get some bleach or something.  I don’t.  I get some paper towels and dry the counter then move the drainboard back and pick up the mug.  The idea of cleanliness working as a metaphor with and against the actual events.  Which in themselves worked with and against how we, I, him, thought about it.  I’m only cleaning so he cannot use anything as leverage.  There are five, eleven, etc couples going all about this right now so I know, though I do not feel, I only know that I am not special.  I am partially trying to get this mania or depression or whatever that brought you to the point of ruining what was a hefty part of your identity seem matter of fact.  I am talking to myself.  Look Betty, Kristen, Regina, Mike, Bob, look at how we all are, this is how we function as creatures.  Moving together.  Moving apart.  Then knowing how we actually are you would feel stupid for having wasted so much time in trying to extend things.  A few months.  More than a few months.  In thinking that it would change, go back, get better.  I walk down the hall feeling stupid.  I walk down the hall to the bedroom and put the mug on the nightstand.  I’m not hiding it.  But when I’m packing and he is yelling and I am yelling and he is crying and I am crying I will put it in my bag.  There are other things I will take, too.  Most at this point, though, I cannot figure how to get out of me.  Kristen, Mike, Bob, tell me how to get them out of me.  It goes like this.  I get some paper towels and put them by the mug so I can wrap it so that when I am leaving it will not break.  

Originally born and raised in upstate New York, Christopher Heffernan has had poetry and fiction placed in magazines and journals around the country such as The Believer, The Writer’s Journal, Pacific Coast Journal, Cottonwood, Talking River, The South Dakota Review, Louisiana Literature, the Sierra Nevada Review, the Tampa Review, and Whisky Island. He has a book of poetry and flash fiction titled Rag Water, and spends his time working in the sun.