EXPANSE by Tyler Dillow

She talks to me at the bar. She talks about him. Him, the fucking bastard. How could you not fall in love with him and how could you not hate him? She talks back at me.

On the front patio of the bar, she lies next to me and the inner mass of a star collapses inside her. The star collapses inside her earthly body. The star collapses the lives of crumpled people—people shrinking, people expanding. 

Have you seen that Lars Von Trier film—fuck—what’s it called? You know the one where the leading actress is blonde and white and she lays in the river or whatever in her wedding dress. You know like Ophelia.

I don’t know her name.

I say to her, Do you remember when this state was asleep? Heavy air surrounds us, but we are just sitting. Am I him? Am I the him she talks about, that fucking bastard. I hope not, but I hope. She says, We were always asleep, we were aware of what surrounds us.

Maybe, I’m this man. Do you believe in heaven?

You’re talking about Melancholia. What about it? That Ophelia metaphor was always a little too much for me, I say.

She’s always collapsing, always frantic, always calm—these are the signs of my favorite people. The kind of people I fall in love with, the kind of people dipping spoons into the universe.

I leave her. I go home.

She calls me. She is at some truck stop. Her car got a flat. She breathes through the phone. She breathes like the flints hills—this is the sound of her crashing. Can you come? Will you help me? 

I do not care. I drive to get her. I breathe and she breathes. We are at a truck stop—inflating and deflating. 

She holds my hand. She feels like every shock of wheat—dirty, holy, filthy.

She eats M&Ms, one at a time, and sips Coke in-between bites. She laughs. The creamy pastels from the sun in the skyline melt into her. When she looks at me, I see her. She looks at me as if she is alone. And she is.

When you hold my hand, I’m connected. I’m running through a wire and you’re the transmission signal, I say. 

Water drops and fog stick to her apartment. I kiss her. She tastes like sweet grain.

Do you believe in heaven? Like a heaven you can touch?

I stretch across her. She talks about that man again. She talks about how he understands her. How he believes in her without a word. It all sounds made up. It’s all sounds made for hate. I hate him. She exhales and constellations beat my chest and he beats me. He beats my chest. I collapse. I collapse and come together through her body.

Thick grassland and hedgerows roll by the window as we drive. You shake just like the trees. The trees stop shaking and her hair is frizzy. Her hairy is frizzy and moves like the light of a star. I’m as real as everything. I breathe like she did. The car stops and I breathe like I did before. 

She leans on my car. Smoke billows out of the hood. The wind picks up. She walks to the ditch and picks a wild flower. I used to put these in mason jars when I was little. My grandma and I would add food coloring to the water and in a few hours the petals wouldn’t be white anymore. I think about her as a child. I am convinced she is real. 

She walks into the field. Grass and weeds up to her knees. She spins and spins. She spins, until I want to spin, but I don’t. I stay next to the car. A weight presses down on me, the soil quakes, I feel her breath. I take from the world. I take and I want to give, but I can’t. My feet drag forward. 

She collapses.

I know the answer now. This is as close as I will get to believing.

She hasn’t gotten up yet.

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I wash my hands, then my face.

He carries me in a bag. A brown paper sack, rough and unevenly cut around the edges. It’s dark. He takes me out of the bag and hangs me, right above his headboard.

Coffee boils on the stovetop. Snow falls outside as seen through a window. Music plays as heard through ears. Bodies touch hands; hands touch bodies. Altogether naked. Altogether, a mug sits on the corner of a table as held by gravity. All held down by the feet of a person. On the floor, linoleum; on the linoleum, dust. Outside wet, outside ice. Outside, a certain amount of snowflakes reached human lungs. When inhaling, hold your breath. Colonial abstraction. There you are, German Shepard on a leash. There you are. Ready for attack; ready to oppress. More willing to oppress, than any other feeling you’ve ever had. You say, you didn't know you had it, but you did. Still do. Every time you don’t look or more so look. A gun on your hip following the pattern of the generation before you. You are still very much them. We know, you watched Selma. You wanted it to win best picture. You even rooted for MLK. Ignoring the facts. Ignoring the fact, you were responsible for the ending.

Ten people died in an apartment fire.

My friend kissed the ground in appreciation of earth. The dirt isn’t soft. The opposite of the silk robe laying over his recliner. My friend—say his name is Mark—lives alone. Mark wants to dig up the bones of fossilized animals or fossilized people. It’s his first time outside in three months. Mark pays this kid to bring him his groceries, but he wants to dig through the crust of the earth. Mark found an arrowhead near the river, when he was fourteen. Ever since, he thinks, he’s Indiana Jones. Mark owns a leather satchel. Mark owns a dark brown hat. Mark ordered a bull whip, a few weeks ago, and it just came in. The arrowhead stays in his front-shirt pocket.

He stirs up goosebumps on my neck. The suns rising. It shines through my curtains. Cillian sits. Half his face is, ideally, covered by shadows like a Bacon painting. He is all obtuse and sexual. Blood red stains into yellow into purple into lavender. Him into me. Windows into walls into bathrooms.

About five miles outside of town, Ronald Reagan built a missile silo. Fuck North Dakota, he said.

A man walks out of a shop carrying a framed Magritte painting. A bad print in a bag.

An old Pontiac is parked across the street. Today is sun. A movie plays on the television—Hiroshima—low and inaudible dialogue can be heard. This movie always plays; we always watch. Air mixes with the blemishes on your skin. Listen to this, a novel sentence, too long sticking and stuck to the roof of your mouth. Hiroshima, Hiroshima, Hiroshima—the tipping slow release of a snail shell. Water drips out of the faucets, the movie plays. We watch.

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