SCAR TISSUE THAT I WISH YOU SAW
The mist from the shower clears. In the mirror, he can see the lines around his eyes, stretching into his cheeks; swooping out of the corners of his nose; small lines plinking up around the edges of his lips. The mirror clears just enough so he can see his whole face--the pock marks of years on his cheeks, the scars on his eyebrows he can't remember collecting, the gray hairs sprouting up along his hairline like a well-groomed hedge. The mist collects in the corners of the mirror like a frame. Every surface in this house has a frame of mist around it. His teeth are gray-yellow from years of coffee and cigarettes and crippling self-doubt.
The house is empty. There is a couch. And a kitchen table. But they don't talk to each other and they don't talk to him. That's okay. He doesn't talk to them either. The pictures are gone, along with the throw pillows and the candles and the radio. They walked out one day last year, got into a truck, drove away. They didn't say anything when they did, they had already given up. When there's nothing else to say, words are irrelevant.
The front lawn is mowed. The trim trimmed. The driveway cleared of clutter. It looks like every other front yard on this street: orderly, contained, in control. There's a white picket fence around the backyard. The lawn out there is mowed too. There's no lawn furniture, no swing set. They must've left, too, although he can't remember them getting on the truck.
What he sees today, for the first time in a year, is the framed photograph on the mantle. It must have climbed up there on its own during the night. It sits slightly askew, no doubt exhausted from the night's journey, and it breathes like it's out of breath, which embarrasses the frame because it thought it was in better shape that that.
In the photo, the woman white-teeth smiles, her green eyes shine, the sun rains light all over her auburn hair. The photo is the only surface in the room without mist on it. She has a graceful jawline, a pointed chin. He does too, but his are covered with gray stubble. He can't remember if the photo got into the truck with the other things, but it must have, they all left together, didn't they? So perhaps it's back to mock him. Or to keep him company.
He traces his finger around the edge of the frame, feels the soft hairs on her face, smells the clean shower smell of her perfume, breathes in her skin, her eyelashes, the freckles on her shoulder.
In the backyard, the sprinkler flows back and forth, a fountain of water bursting up, then gently tumbling in curtained droplets along the grass. Where the sprinkler sprinkles, the grass is green as emeralds. The neighborhood is quiet. No cars driving by, no far-off sound of a lawn mower, no bird-chirping. His breathing sounds like the endless hum of the neighbor's air conditioner unit. The sprinkler waves back and forth.
He walks over to it, lies down in the grass under it. The sprinkler prickles over his toes, his legs, his torso, his face, then flips to the other side, comes back, prickles over his face, his torso, his legs, his toes. He watches the droplets of water drip down from an invisible faucet over his face, watches the blue sky beyond the droplets, polka dotted with fluffy white clouds. He opens his mouth. Nothing comes out, of course, he hasn't spoken in years, but the water feels good on his teeth.
The blades of grass are at eye level with him now. He keeps his focus on the water and the sky, but he can see the grass clearly in his peripheral vision. Soon it's taller than him, climbing around his arms and legs. Now he's sunken far enough into the earth that he's surrounded by stalks of green grass, the sprinkler and the sky minute images he can see only through the pinprick opening high above him. The dirt feels cool. This feels like home, this blanket of grass, this disbursement into the ground. The grass winds itself around him, over him, making room for him but still growing where it wants. He sinks.
When the new people come to the house, he can hear their voices but not their words. The sprinkler is turned off. Feet run over him. He tickles them. When bodies fall on top of him, he is a soft bed. When they leave, he reaches for the sun. Tomorrow, he will flirt with the tulips.