Rachel Morton and Claire Guyton

Rachel Morton
Love Hurts


Love with a Limp
By Claire Guyton

Inspiration piece

At a table too small to hold them, a man and a woman are arguing about flying pie pans. He thinks their vulnerability to the wind represents the risk of freedom, and the flashes of sun thrown back by the sailing aluminum are as beautiful as any diamond. She believes pie pans are for pie and can’t imagine why anyone thinks kitchenware suspended from wooden poles makes Art.

Last week they argued about the proper consistency of latté foam. They didn’t want to argue about it—neither one really cares about foam. Still, he was insistent that the foam should be creamy and sweet—like an especially airy whipped cream. That they were drinking sub-par lattés because the foam was stiff and broken, and not sweet, not even a little sweet. Sub-par, huh? Fuck foam.

Tomorrow they will argue about fighting in ice hockey. They will be at a game, too close to the ice for her comfort—he has a job with the local newspaper, so always the best seats in the house—too close to the gap-toothed mastodons slashing the ice with their razored feet. She will flinch every time a player gets checked into the boards and he will laugh at that. Again and again he will laugh at that. Finally she’ll say What? and he’ll say nothing, she’s just too sensitive, and that’s funny, but anyway she’ll get used to it, he’s seen this before. She will think oh really now and wonder just how many times before. And then, at the first drop of the gloves, she will complain about too much testosterone and go on a tear about rules. They exist for a reason, you know. If fighting is against the rules then it’s against the rules and shut up your nonsense about how it’s part of the game. At the next game he will explain icing in careful, slow-dripped detail, which will so irritate her that she will have to go wait in the long line outside the women’s restroom just for a break. And when she gets back they will fight about the tone of voice he used when trying to teach her about the game. Trying? Like I can’t learn??

In a month or so they will notice that the arguments are increasing in frequency. She will notice first.

And it goes on like that! Arguments, arguments. Sniping, nursed resentment, barbs left at the dinner table or in the shower or in the bed.

It goes on and on like that, but still they get married and they stay married because the stuff between the fights—the nights crammed into the couch with bad TV, the terrible dinners they put together (he can’t get a potato to cook all the way through and nothing is worse than a crunchy potato, at least her overdone steaks suit some people’s tastes, if not theirs), the awesome pizza at Vinny’s plus their bad jokes about the horrible 80’s music blasting the dining room, the long silences and kicked ankles at Thanksgiving with her parents, all the early-Christmas-morning photos in their pajamas at his parents (over 30 and she has to sit in pink PJs and smile at the camera), the impromptu picnics when he had to spend so much time at the hospital with his mother, the way he held her when she had that meltdown right after going back to graduate school, those long nights with their diabetic cat. All of it felt, feels, something like love. Love with a bad back. Love with shin splints. Love laced with a few wormy apples, with over-ripe bananas. Crunchy potatoes.

And now cancer.

He holds her hand, thin as a leaf. Remember when you called those hockey players gap-toothed mastodons with razored feet? He thinks she hears him, perceives a tremor along her jawline he interprets as a nod. I didn’t know I loved you then. I thought you were a royal pain in the ass. A pretty royal pain, he says, smoothing her bottom lip with this thumb, a sexy royal pain, a royal pain with legs like stilts. Her eyelids flutter. She likes that, legs like stilts.

Only later, he says, stroking her brittle fingers, did I know. Later, when I took you to another game and another. Remember, we were always so close to the boards? He leans in, his lips brush her ear. You never stopped, Babe. You never stopped flinching.

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