Charlotte

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July 1, 2013 by The Citron Review

by Rob Shapiro

 

Tonight, Charlotte sits up in bed when I tell her not to get romantic. She’s featureless against the rush of headlights slicing through the window shades, but I know she has those dark circles under her eyes—I know she’s not smiling. We’ve been together for eight months, and by now, I understand she doesn’t want to introduce me to her twelve‐year‐old son; I understand there’s nothing I can say to change her mind.

“You wouldn’t have a good time,” she says again. “You don’t like kids.” She lays a palm across my chest, and I can make out the delicate bones of her hand, the ones that look like they belong to a cardinal or jay.

“But maybe I do.” I take a deep breath and watch her hand rise with my chest.

“Maybe it’s just been a while since I’ve tried,” I tell her, stressing maybe the way I practiced while waiting for the T at Lechmere.

Charlotte swings her legs over the bed, stands up, and starts dressing in the dark.

“Well,” she begins, “what if he doesn’t like you.” She pulls her jeans over her slim hips and crosses back to find her shirt. “What then?”

I stay quiet and watch her get dressed, imagining her moving in reverse. I picture her standing in her own bedroom, a place I’ve never been but like to pretend I have. I imagine Polaroids slid in the mirror frame, images of her son, her parents, her late husband. I can picture his old mandolin standing in the corner, that hollow body she says she strums every now and then. I imagine his old suits still hanging in the closet next to the blouses that still get worn. I imagine the x‐rays rolled up in a cardboard tube, the ones she told me once she still can’t get rid of.

Charlotte buttons her shirt and throws a jacket around her shoulders, says she’s waiting for the right time to bring me home—says she knows we have chemistry, but it’s about timing. She sits on the edge of the bed and runs her palm along the stubble on my cheek, and I think about how sometimes, late at night, she says she likes how I have dimples on only one cheek, how she likes that I smell like mulch and dried sweat after work.

I think about how some nights, I press her harder than I should. How, sometimes, I’ll say I’m ready to take a leap of faith, meet her son, see what kind of screwed up, makeshift family we can sort ourselves into. I’ll say I love her, and I don’t believe she loves me back, and maybe, it’s time for her to move on with her life, leave me behind. When I do, she always gets upset and leaves as quickly as she can. Those nights, I watch from my bedroom as she walks alone to the T station; shoes clicking, breath fogging the space in front of her, shadow falling behind her like a wake on still water.

But tonight, she stands up and just says, “Soon.”

I nod my head. “Soon.”

 

Rob Shapiro, raised outside of Boston, graduated from Elon University in the spring of 2013. His work is forthcoming or has previously appeared in Poetry East, Pembroke Magazine, and Glass Mountain among other journals. He hopes to be a lifelong student of literature.

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