Richard Chiem

She spreads the legs of her tripod and barefoot walks back and forth from her viewfinder and the blankets on the floor. She has on her most expensive white dress shirt. In her background long blinds swing in sunlight creating a warm cadence. Every time she peers through the glass hole she tip toes without ever touching the camera with her face. She tells me I am her pear. On speakerphone I am driving a fast car on the sidewalks trying to get home to her. She narrates a different scene for me. If I was the phone, she says, I would be inside her pocket. She tells me she is doing laundry. She says I am taking pictures of nothing again. I hear her flicking her lighter. She admits she was never really doing laundry.

Events are not eventful. I almost go all day without talking to anyone. On the radio the DJs play faint new wave songs and refrain from talking into the microphone. Nights are hot enough for everyone to take off their sweaters and feel unwatched. She cleans her face in the sink and splashes cold water. She makes every outfit look so comfortable. She says I’m afraid so, to someone calling her on her cell phone. Holding my hand in the hallway between the bathroom and the kitchen, she squeezes.

She looks through walls and door handles with a blank face in this way that reminds me she had it easy growing up. She makes a hot fuss. I would never feel poor or lacking around her.

She looks at her hand between herself and the mirror. I know she tries to focus on where her hand is and not why she is in the bathroom for so long.

In the shower her soft shapes belong to me. Her entire face sometimes does not move. Some days I pan out my mind like a camera. Her eyelashes are longer than I remember her eyelashes being. In my head I make reenact and cross out memories. During nights I think about the way I love her and how I want to evolve stronger. I am talking to my friend about his black argyle socks and how much I like them. Empty bottles of wine and tortilla chip crumbs already seed the floor. Our friends are all asleep and cuddling in the clean living room huddled together. My head is twice its size, nestled against her on a couch. She asks me How did we get to this party. I say I don’t know we were fighting the whole time.

She calls home with threats sometimes when she forgets herself. She chooses words like knife and love and I don’t know if I can do this anymore. My friends call this a warning sign. If I don’t catch myself, I can get angry at strangers and bus drivers when I arrive home late to see her. I want to rip some heads off with a soundtrack above me. Sometimes a person to blame is the only faith I need to make vocal. When she starts to throw steel toe shoes at my head, I am frightened with my polite tone of voice and the way she says my name. She says my name perfectly. I am giving her every priority.

One day on the bus I forgot which direction I was going. I say it out loud a few times. I say I forgot which way I was going.

Is she feverish? She is feverish.

I almost go all year without laughing but I laugh with her all day Halloween drinking wine.

Richard Chiem (b.1987) is the author of the e book WHAT IF, WENDY, from Pangur Ban Party. He is the winner of the UCSD Stewart Prize in Poetry 2009 and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. His work has appeared in Monkeybicycle, >kill author and decomP, and is forthcoming in Magic Helicopter Press, Mud Luscious Press and SLAB Literary Magazine.

Photograph by Peter Gorwin