Unlade

Soft humming.

Awakened by the record still spinning on the turntable, weighed down by the comforts of blankets, feet covered in fuzzy blue socks, I padded into the living room. Bumping into the sharp corner of the coffee table, I decided to let the rest of My Morning Jacket play—no sense in risking further injury. This apartment and I are still strangers. Still renting out the honeymoon phase—getting a feel for one another. Lest the bowls of rice—my world’s only trusted food—be seeds of gluttony rather than loneliness.

The soft click of the toner arm echoes across the room. A gentle reminder that it’s over. The lullaby of hymns that whispered for me not to cry has dissipated. I caved. Reached further into the house for a hug in the walls.

Four weeks in and I still hadn’t found replacements. Not for the Cheers-like bars that knew my drink order, just a five-minute-drive-bear-hugs, or chicken shawarma with rice plate that made me feel warm enough to brace the coldest weather. The old familiarities are gone—replaced husks of joy through song.

I slid the record back into its cover—gingerly placed it back in the crate, then, pulled out another. Carrie and Lowell by Sufjan Stevens, the record crate knew the apartment wasn’t ready to be home. As music whistled out of the speakers, I saw it glistening on the floor.

In 1993, Hawaii’s supreme court ruled that under the state’s constitution, it was unconstitutional to restrict marriage on the basis of sex in the case of Baehr vs Lewin. This led to many states across the United States of America pushing legislation that would prevent the marriage of same-sex couples from being recognized by law. And, in turn, a shift in public opinion—as media outlets began to show more favorable images of same-sex couples, specifically gay men, the sitcom Will & Grace exemplified this.

It’s still bent from the last time it found itself lost—the sterling silver sailboat necklace. An old lover’s trinket I could never associate with that, or any, lover. It was always mine before it was gifted to me on a doomed couples retreat. It was mine after the fourth breakup and in spite of the final one over the phone—a perk of long distance.     

It’s cold against my fingers. Too cold to slip around my neck. I shove it into the pocket of my sweatpants instead. I want to call my sister—listen to her ramble on about her book idea. I boot up my computer and look at Pixy Liao’s photo collection instead. It’s too late for phone calls, and the only book I want to think of reading is for children: P.E. King’s The House That Had Enough.

I warm up a bowl of brown rice in between staring at Liao’s photos. The intimacy in how she so effortlessly demands that the binds of relationships—preconceived ideas of masculine and feminine fumes swirling into a content state of children and white-picket fences—are loosened and made malleable, add a buttery flavor to the taste. I do not imagine myself with a camera asking for such intimacy from a male lover. Even before and long after the necklace, I have not placed male and lover together in imagination.

In 2015 the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry. Nationwide same-sex couples (as well as single members of the LGBTQIA community and their supporters) celebrated the guarantee of all fifty states having to perform and recognize their marriages as guaranteed by the Due Process Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause

Low hums of Sufjan Steven in the background, I placed the now-empty bowl of rice into the sink. I settled further into the apartment, past the treacherous coffee table and back into the bedroom—returning to the cocoon of blankets. I pulled the necklace from my pocket. It could have been an engagement ring, but I always prayed he’d leave that to empty promises. The necklace came instead. I think of the woman at the coffee shop, who grinned when I couldn’t think of what I wanted to order and fall back into sleep.

AUTHOR

Jennifer Cie is an MFA candidate in fiction at Portland State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in New South Journal, Philadelphia Printworks, Portland Review, and elsewhere.

Twitter: @JenniferCie1

Instagram: @JenniferCie1

Website: jennifercie.com

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