There is a new woman in your apartment. What happened to the other woman? Tall like you. Blonde like you. I hope you haven’t broken up.
But if you have: please consider, for a split second– Me.
Me and you began the day you moved in. From the balcony of my illegal sixth floor walkup, I peered into your curtainless life. I was tired of onion peeler ads and videos of black men poked into hermit crab positions, playing Jesus in my daughter’s Mary Magdalene roleplay (her chest packed with hormonal mandarins) and my boyfriend’s “Aren’t you concerned about the pimple on the back of your neck?”
I wanted to file myself thick somewhere in the W’s, X’s or Y’s of your life, uncertain if I would fit amongst the eggshell chairs and paper lanterns. I am darker and shorter than the blonde. Think Snow White with doe-colored skin, cornrows and a stopwatch frame. You would need to bend down to kiss me. It might be inconvenient. I winked at Orion’s belt and blew out birthday candles wishing this new brown-haired girl away until I decided love is diligence.
Your self-care routines are just right. The blonde was naturally beautiful like a baby goat. I see the brown-haired girl is more camouflaged. She hides fatigue with incandescent eyeshadows. I have an appropriate pop-level shame about my appearance, an Umbrella-remix you can dance to. Yesterday, I waited at a perfume counter with a steady fever tremble for the long-lashed attendant. Last time I visited the department store a cashier had a stroke. When I explained the incident to the EMT he stared at me and my pile of sixty-four pairs of control briefs and wrote in caps as the cause of incident: “UNIDENTIFIED AND UNREASONABLE EXERTION.” I will try my best not to startle if you come into the bathroom unannounced.
“Boo! It’s just me,” I will say, “no need to be scared.”
You rarely ate dinner together. The blonde ate spelt and weeds from bowls standing up. The brown-haired one is less digestively coy – she nibbles on kitchen paper. I can last on bitter coffee and water spoon-fed from my hand in the bathroom sink. In university there was another brown girl who Zumba’ed the same time I did, the meat of her upper arms picked clean by Cosmo and Vogue. I saw a dog let go of a mournful howl as it went past her photo on the university’s welcome banner and I got the program. I made friends with the salad bar staff who had tattoos in unemployable places. They would ask me “More chicken shug?”
“No,” I said, “on a program.” For which I would receive eyelids engraved with Fuck-blink-That.
You were often headed somewhere. The blonde liked the tease of a black A-line skirt and turtleneck. I can see the brown-haired one prefers garments that resemble fitted sheets before you tuck them into bed corners. I like a bit of theater in my closet. I once skidded across shifty ice clad in intense reflective footwear to go to a melanoma fundraiser at the zoo. The bouncer glanced me over with a no on his tongue but a greeting from my Indian friend changed the equation in his head and we were in. I am like a zero: when added with a larger, or small number, I make no difference.
You were not big cleaners. The blonde protected wasp nests as if they were Charlotte’s Web. The brown-haired one is very sustainable – she reuses any butts or Hostess wrappers she sees on her way home. I view each spill as a new opportunity. I learned cleaning protocols from my grandmother who might have cleaned your mother’s-mother’s house or bagged your grandpa’s adult diapers without a flinch or peep. The Department of Homeland Security once held her for possession of solvents and flammables in her suitcase and for not obeying the flight attendants’ instructions to remain seated during takeoff and landing because she had been cleaning the toilet with abovementioned solvents and flammables. Sometimes you must clean as if a knife could appear at your throat. My heart would wallop against my breast but I would leave no trace and have a steady dusting hand.
You used to kiss, neck each other. The blonde was full of barnyard romance – nudges like a colt and slicks against your cheeks. I can see the brown-haired woman seems satisfied if she brushes past you in the hallway. I believe that affection, love and even sex are very good for a relationship, but not an excessive afternoon’s worth. I have read enough Victorian romance novels pocketed in the brim of my jeans at Walgreens checkout lines to know how things are done. Each time I expected the The Duke Who Loved Me or some other title would bring forth the sharp rap of an alarm or a heavy frisk but no one suspected me of romance. Don’t worry, I’ve worried the buttons on my button-ups so they are easier to rip and can be wanton with just a raise of my eyebrows.
Wait. My boyfriend just told me you are not you. Another couple moved in, quickly, in the twilight of afternoon. The brown-haired one is not a replacement but the original of someone else. But who I wait for. But who am I waiting for? No matter. Leave the window cracked. I will go via balcony.