I'm sitting here on this dirty plastic bench that is on the dirty plastic grass, watching the dirty plastic people go by.  I try to remember the last time I was happy.

It was before You, I think.  Or maybe before You told me the thing I would have died before hearing willingly.

"I'm not in love with you anymore."  Like it was something trivial, the weather maybe.  You sounded bored.  I try to tell myself that it hurt you to say it as much as it hurt me to hear it, but that isn't true.  I know that now, because I saw you with your new girlfriend just yesterday.  You looked happy, and I don't know whether to be happy because you're happy or to be hurt or angry or sad, and so I am all of these things.  It's hard trying to be happy and hurt and angry and sad all at the same time, but I can do it.  I can do it because I am crying and tears can be euphoric and mad and miserable.

I think the last I was truly happy was the first time you kissed me.  You tasted of cigarettes, but I didn't mind, because I love You.  You tasted like rain and lime and an unidentifiable candy sweet thing that is You.  Afterward, we went to my apartment, into my bedroom and we made love, and it is still the best that has ever happened to me, simply because it was You. 

We were tangled up in white sweaty sheets and pale sweaty limbs and each other and we didn't know who was who.  We lay there on our backs, on the mattress that is still on the floor until the sun went down, until the stars came up, until the sun filled the windows again.  You were smoking, and I didn't mind, because it was You and I love You.  We were staring up at the ceiling and it was Sunday, I remember, because you had your rosary.  I listened and I loved it, though I wasn't catholic or even religious.

Hail Mary,

Full of grace,

The Lord is with you.

Your fingers moved over the blue and white beads of the necklace, the prayers you had already said wrapped safely in your palm.  I listened because it was beautiful when you said it and because, for a time, You made it seem real, You made it seem like finally there was something I could believe in besides my own abilities.  And because it was You, and I love You.

Blessed art thou amongst women

And blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus.

While we lay there on the bed, I counted each prayer.  1… 2… 3… 10… 12… 50… 68… 77… 98… 113… 144… 150.

Your voice is deep, and it was husky with sleep and love and that made it all the more beautiful.  With the sun shining in lines through the slats of the blinds, you said all one hundred and fifty Hail Mary's.  I remember watching the dust float through the air like tiny hot-air balloons, the room smelling like cigarettes and old water and our love, hearing You praying to Your god.

Holy Mary, mother of God

Pray for us sinners

Now and at the time of our death.

Amen.

Now, I'm on this bench, and I can remember the last time I was truly happy, but it is tainted with You, and so it does not count.  I think I can remember a time before Us, before You, before who I am now began.  I was five, I think. 

When you are five years old, your grandmother's house and the beach are two of the best things, and I had both at the same time.  I would skip along the edge of the white foam, my grandmother walking slowly with arthritis behind me.  My world was that big.  The water that was gold in the sunrise, my grandmother, my toes in the gritty sand, and the foam. 

The memories come now, in flashes.  My first real bicycle, my grandmother, the foam, school, my first kiss, when I moved to New York, my first time on a subway, meeting You, our first kiss, the sweet morning after.

I see You, with Your died-blonde-Barbie.  You still look happy, and I still don't know what to be, so I am still all of those feelings.  I'm not crying anymore, and You look over here, at my dirty plastic bench sitting on the dirty plastic grass, at me, watching the dirty plastic people. 

I look at Your eyes, and I know that You aren't happy, though You pretend to be, and I gloat for a moment, because I made You happy, and she doesn't.  I know You aren't happy because there are no crinkles at Your eyelids.  I smile, because maybe now You will realize that we are meant to be together on sweet Sunday mornings, so You can prayer to Your Mary and her son while I listen to You and watch the dust.

I wonder if You lay with her on Sunday mornings on her bed and  say Your Hail Mary's to Your god while she listens and counts, or if she just sleeps?

© J. Schneider; August thirteenth, two thousand and three; six oh six in the evening.