Sunday Stories: “All Matter & Chemistry”

Chemistry bottles

All Matter & Chemistry
by Holly Pelesky

Adam #5 had no clue about Adams #1-#4. It wasn’t something easy to blurt out, I didn’t know how to bring it up. To my friends, my Adam proclivity (or some would say fetish) was a funny anecdote, something we could joke about as if it didn’t matter, something coincidental, harmless, humorous. But then again, none of them were named Adam. 

Adam #4 knew about Adams #1-#3 but that’s because he was Adam #4. I knew he wouldn’t be my final Adam. He was fine, sometimes even enjoyable and I went so far as to trick myself into believing he could be—although he wasn’t—the one atom to turn me molecule. Once I realized that, I began telling Adam #4 all sorts of shit hoping he’d dump me, I was always antagonizing him, poking him into irritation and then anger. My god the lies I told that man, some of my best stories were never written down, just fired off at him, idle ammunition. 

But with this one (#5), I thought to be careful. I didn’t want him to spook.  I was thinking of how it would feel to him. Like say my name is Adam and this girl I’m seeing, this girl I might have the deepest possible connection with, this girl who I have the hottest sex with, tells me she’s seen a whole bunch of other dudes also named Adam. Maybe she laughs after, to put me at ease or to try to make it seem anecdotal, harmless. But you know what I’m thinking? If I’m Adam, I’m thinking she’s only with me for my name. That she doesn’t even care that my jokes always land with her or that she feels comfortable when I’m around, she just cares that I’m named Adam. That would feel pretty shitty, I think. So careful it is. 

But I’ve got to get ahead of it, too. If this keeps going the way it’s going—which is full force, feral, feeling high when I’m stone cold sober, thinking of his body spooning mine to fall asleep each night, I mean thinking about monogrammed towels and not because I have some leftover from a previous Adam, but because I’m imagining him drying off on the other side of the wall because I want to him to be around—then the other Adams have to show themselves. Not literally, of course—not like an Adam parade—but I have to tell him so he can exit before I’m at the point of no return. I’m afraid I’m dangerously close to it already. Like he’s it, he’s my offramp from the Adam expressway, and it leads to this quiet cabin where I feel all seen and known and desired and taken care of. 

My friend Joelle and I have been strategizing on how I should tell Adam about the ones who came before him. Not my full body count, just the Adams, you know, as they have this kinship or whatever you call it. Namesake, I guess. Her ideas are funny, and she could probably pull them off, but I can’t imagine myself saying anything so glib or so serious, I’m much too sweaty for it, so I keep saying, “I’ll put that in my hip pocket,” meaning that’s not what I’ll do but I’ll hold onto the idea to laugh again later. Then she says in all seriousness, “why don’t you go see a palm reader? My friend Marshall knows someone.” 

So now this guy who knows Marshall is holding my sweaty palm in his dry one and he’s showing me lines and talking about what they mean and I’m just waiting to get to the part about Adams but he doesn’t seem to be reading anything about that, he’s talking about some lofty future shit and I’m worried about tonight, at dinner, when I drop the Adam bomb, what’s going to happen. 

I say, “what about this guy I’m seeing?” 

And he says, “Adam?” 

I shit you not, he said that. I think I pulled my hand back a little, so he’d stop reading it. Maybe I had written Adam’s name on it in a heady dream or something, god knows, I’m all over the place, all high all the time, all wrapped up in this love that feels so true that I’m almost tempted to write letters to everyone I said, “I love you” to before and take it back, say I didn’t know what I was saying before, I hadn’t learned what love was, it wasn’t that, it’s this. 

“How’d you know that?” I asked, “did Joelle tell you?”

“Who’s Joelle?” he said and then I remembered he doesn’t know Joelle, he knows Joelle’s friend and it doesn’t matter anyway, it’s the Adams that matter here. “How’d you know that?” I said again. 

“Adams are your through line,” he said and then he traced his finger across this long line on my hand that I always thought was just from gripping the steering wheel or something. “It’s really unusual,” he added, “that someone keeps looking for love in such a specific manner the way you have, but you were right to, because you are going to end up with a man named Adam, you must have known that somehow, it’s almost as if you’ve been sent a message from a future self, a happy one who whispered the name Adam to you to make sure you’d become her.” 

I pulled my hand away from him and looked at it. There was no name scrawled across it. 

“Thank you,” I said and I tipped him eighty dollars because I had taken out too much cash for the casino last weekend and because I didn’t know how much to tip palm readers and because all of a sudden money meant nothing to me, all that mattered was that I told Adam #5 he is my present but also my future. A place no other Adam had gone before, a place I had never invited anyone.  

I wore a black dress to hide my sweat stains, high heels to stand tall. Adam picked me up and whistled, not in a catcall way but in a holy shit you’re hot way, a whistle he hadn’t used before, just for me. And I had the thought, what if Adam has had a bunch of Emmas, what if this is a whistle he pieced together from all the ones he knew before he knew me, what if he had crafted it specially for me, the Emma he wanted to save for last, the best. 

We went out for burritos so you might be thinking I was overdressed but all I was thinking was Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam. “I have something I have to tell you,” I said, and he did that thing he does where he looks at me and listens without interrupting, without trying to speed me up. I told the story the long way, starting, “It all began in the year 2003,” and then I talked him through two decades and four men and as I told him I was connecting all these threads, like, “and maybe Adam #1 was meant to be a quick short love so I would keep wanting more and then maybe Adam #3 was a pivotal point where I became aware consciously that Adams weren’t coincidence, and then Adam #4 was no good but he was closer to your age and he had kids like you do and it’s like my future self was guiding me toward you all this time, teaching me what I didn’t want and what I did.” 

When I finished, the restaurant was closing, they were packing up the tortillas and I looked at Adam, I mean really looked and he seemed neither upset nor amused. He looked pensive but not like he was thinking but rather like he was absorbed. 

“Well?” I said. “What are you thinking?” I had to know, I had just unleashed something edged into this relationship and maybe this is where it ended. Adam looked back at me in that way where I felt so noticed, like no one had noticed before. His eyes were so deep and honest, the brownest of browns, he looked more alive than anyone I’d ever known. 

Before replying to what I asked, he  picked up a fork and said, “You know, these really aren’t necessary with burritos.” 

I nodded. “I think they’ve just got silverware lying around, I think it’s for ambiance.” 

He laughed at that, he laughed at the silly little things I said, he laughed to make me feel at ease, he laughed because I delighted him. 

He grew serious then, looking me in the eye again in that way that had me feeling all understood. “Emma,” he said, and my name sounded like clouds the way he breathed it, I felt ethereal but also so grounded to whatever it was he was about to say. “I’ve imagined how you’d tell me so many times in so many different ways and you did it even better.”    


Holly Pelesky writes essays, fiction and poetry. She received her MFA from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her prose can be found in CutBank, The Normal School, and Roanoke Review, among other places. Her collection of letters to her daughter, Cleave, was recently released by Autofocus Books. She works as a librarian while raising boys in Nebraska. She puts a lot of miles on her car visiting her partner and his son in Kansas.

Image source: Fulvio Ciccolo/Unsplash

Follow Vol. 1 Brooklyn on TwitterFacebook, and sign up for our mailing list.