Take Me to the Boneyard
by Brenna Ehrlich
Adam had missed her. Or he supposed he did. Or he was just bored. But she was here now, anyway. She was sitting on a rusted folding chair in his studio and she was looking at his art.
“This one represents something about lost time,” Adam said slowly, gesticulating a bit wildly at a crushed pocket watch glued to a piece of wood. It hung on the wall over a melted Bill Clinton Halloween mask covered in glitter. He called that one “The Scandals of Our Youth.” He had made both before she came over – that afternoon. After he had taken off his wedding ring and hidden all the photos that weren’t art in his desk drawer.
She nodded. She looked at the crushed clock on the wall and her face didn’t change. He had missed her. He had told her so. Via an e-mail. He had suggested they get together for a drink, even though he hadn’t seen her in a few years and he was the one who had ended it in the first place. He was kind of disappointed in her that she had agreed to meet him. He was kind of put off by the fact that she was probably still alone.
“It’s, uh, nice, Adam,” she said, not really looking at him – and he liked her again. She was quiet for a few moments, taking in the mini racecars he had glued to another piece of wood – their plastic bodies spelling out “racecar.” The title of that one was “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.” He kind of hoped Tame Impala sued him one day.
“I’m, uh, kind of surprised you asked me to hang out, though…” She flicked her blond ponytail and Adam wanted to grab it and bite her neck. He didn’t, though. He congratulated himself silently for not doing so.
“Well, uh,” – now he was talking like her. He liked that they had something in common again – “Yeah, um, like I said. I missed you. Also, I never wanted to stop hanging out with you just because, you know…” He watched her eyes go down to his hand. He knew she noticed that he wasn’t wearing a ring. He knew she wouldn’t ask him about it. She had never asked him about overly personal things. He wondered if that was because she was too shy, or because she just didn’t care. He liked thinking that she just didn’t care.
“Yeah… I know… I missed you, too.” She looked down at her hands and he noticed that her nail polish was chipped. It was always chipped. He liked that she didn’t care about that, either. He focused on the chipped polish so that he wouldn’t smile too much about her missing him.
“I can’t go to the Natural History Museum, you know… anymore…” she said. He had no idea what she was talking about.
“Why’s that?” he asked. Cocked his head to the side and hoped she noticed the basket of broken eggs he had lacquered, their nameplate bearing the title: “Biological Clock – Interrupted.”
“Because we went that one time. I remember it was really quiet and sad there, like there were all these sad-eyed Indian ghosts lurking behind their headdresses and whatever. But I liked it there. I liked it there with you,” she said. She looked at him, kind of, and then looked away. “My parents wanted to take me when they visited a few months ago and I pretended to have a headache. Because, you know, I didn’t want to remember.” Her face was red now. He wanted her to be laughing. He liked her better when she was laughing. She shook her head, though, which was close to laughing – at least as far as motion is concerned.
“Anyway, how are you?” She said, slowly, letting her eyes wander over the row of plastic flowers Adam had planted in a fish tank filled with bottle caps (the title: “All Natural Soda”). “How is…everyone?”
“I’m fine,” he said, ignoring the second half of her question. He scraped his chair closer to her then. Flinched at the noise the metal made on the concrete floor. Flinched at the weird nervous smile on her face. Her eyes darted around the room, but didn’t land on any artwork.
“You know… It’s fine, really…” she said, again, slowly.
“What’s fine?” Adam examined her pale blue eyes. She had a freckle to the left of her top lip, which curved up. It was always curved up. Even when she looked sort of sad, like she did now.
“That you didn’t love me…”
Adam started to open his mouth, but she wasn’t looking at him. She was looking at her little white tennis shoes. They were very white. He had never seen them before. Something about the little white tennis shoes made him very sad.
“I always have this moment, you know, with guys…” she told her tennis shoes. “This moment where this voice in my head just whispers, ‘He’s not for you. You are not his.’ That moment happened with you. I just tried to ignore it.”
“When did it happen?” he asked. He had told her that he didn’t love her once, when it ended, so he didn’t know why his heart was clenching. He didn’t know why he wanted to grab her.
“It was raining. You came over and you were soaked. And you came over and your hair was in your eyes and your lips were blue. I gave you a blanket. I should have felt all maternal – in a non-creepy way or whatever – but all I heard was this little voice in my head saying, ‘He’s not for you.’ I should have listened I guess. So, you know, it’s OK…” Her shoes listened.
Adam looked down at her leg. It was very white. White and smooth. He felt like he should say something to her, but, instead, he put his hand on her thigh and moved it up. Then stopped below the hem of her skirt. Her back went very straight and she stood up. Walked across the room to examine a cluster of bones glued to a board, painted gold like wedding rings and jumbled. Her back went even very straighter and she put her hand up to her mouth. Something had finally moved her. She started to turn around, but Adam could see her eyes catch on the saws hung on the wall opposite, all sharp and gleaming and clean. “I should go…” she told the saws.
He felt very sad then. He felt sad because he liked her now, best of all. He felt sad because then he moved to lock the door and to come up behind her where she stood in front of one of his largest works. The gold jumble of bones. The gleaming jumble of bones. Title: “My Ex-Wife.”
Brenna Ehrlich is the editor in chief of the Talkhouse Music and the founder of All Ages Press. Her debut novel, PLACID GIRL, is out now.