Edmund Sandoval
As to Who We Are

We are friends now. Yes. Sort of. Kind of we are friends. It is like acting. If we were actors. But we are not. Yet, we are performing. It has been just past ten months, eleven months, a year. It has been a day, an hour. It has been an eternity. It is now, it is never. What am I saying. She was cheating and I found out. Everyone always finds out, so why shouldn’t I? But we’re friends now, for the most part. Despite the calamity. We send each other text messages. We get together. We have drinks. We have drinks and laugh and play games and wave when we come and go. We go on hikes. We shake hands and sometimes we hug. We tell the truth and we don’t. We withhold the obvious. There is so much make believe, so much not addressing what is there in front of us, a severed hand, an obscenity without the censor’s blur, the unburnished truth of what has transpired between us. We hold each other and don’t move. Sit on each other’s furniture. Talk and chat. We go to shows. We kissed once or twice. Just little pecks. Like see ya later kisses when we were together and one or the both of us were in a rush. We had sex once too, right after I found out. Just like the movies, right. Amid shambles of strewn clothes and books and broken plastic hangers and bashed picture frames. She cried midway through the act. And so did I. What were we doing? It was horrible. But we did it anyway. Our clothes mainly on. I write about it on occasion. Her and me. Like now. Or I think about it aloud while driving: What the fuck was that, Ed? She lives across the river now. In a giant rental house on a hill that overlooks the waters of the Willamette. Nestled among tall pines rich with their breath mint perfume. I live alone. For the time being. Sometimes it feels as though it’ll be a permanent affair, but I doubt it. I am not ancient. Not yet. Yet I’ve gotten older. Though I do not feel it. Not always.

For the entirety of a week, I did not sleep. Not really. A half hour here, two hours there. It is the human thing, replaying the scenes of her infidelity over and over again, while brewing coffee, while pissing, while everything. I see not my arm but some stranger’s wrapped around her shoulders. I can see what they admire. For she is tall and glamorous and powerful. She has epicanthic eyes. In that they are like almonds, and the eyelids, like a Siberian’s, pursed from the endless sun, the white of the horizon, the glowing white snow. It is a body I’ve known. It is a body she has shared, and I see that too. The weight of bodies. The clutch and terror and cry out – my own voice – and pushing and hitting the bathroom door as though it were him and him and him.

For the entirety of a week, I was no better than the movies. I trashed the place. I tore my hair. Clenched my fists and stomped and wept and what. Pilloried myself in self-abuse and despair. I talked to the dog. Beseeched him. Held onto him as though he were a ring buoy in a turbulent sea. I buried my face in his side. I looked into his eyes and tried to convey to him the gravity of our situation, our shared experience. I ran riot with my emotions and my body.

Just like in books and novels and stories and poems, I empty out her drawers and shove her belongings into garbage bags. Those big jobs used for lawn waste, for grass clippings that smelled both fresh and rank, redolent of summer, of hot sun and of cold beer and shortsleeves. I rip shirts and blouses from their hangers, the plastic hangers snapping like frozen branches in a strong breeze and clattering over the linoleum of the bathroom floor. I haul the bags downstairs and line them up along the wall next to the front door. I listen to the same angry songs over and over again. I pretend all the time no one is home. I reread and reread the emails I’d copied and pasted and sent to my own account. It is a practice emblematic of nothing. A devotee clapping his back with a leather belt in a cave deep in an overgrown forest.

For some reason I cleanse myself of hundreds of my books. I guess it’s the necessity of doing something. Of doing anything. Because I’d stopped going to work. For a little while. A week. Okay. So. I sit in front of one bookshelf and then the next. There was no criteria for what was kept and what was chucked. Ugly cover, hadn’t opened in a year, stupid dust jacket, written in the second person, too many pages, too few pages. The process took hours. I dragged them down to the free stuff stand and dumped them in a pile. In those same heavy lawn bags. And when I tired of that, I dumped them in the trash, in the recycling bin. And then what. I didn’t really drink. There was no need. Not yet. Not sleeping for days and days is its own intoxicant. Disbelief and hard reality too, intoxicants.

I call my parents, my friends, and tell them of her transgressions and they sympathize, they sigh, they say, Fuck, dude, damn. Oh, honey, they say. My son! They say, It’s for the better that you know. Move forward. Don’t look back. Come home, if you need. Come visit. Listen to Mozart. We’re here for you. We never liked her anyway. I post melancholic songs on social media. I take pictures of the cloud covered sky and write, Current mood, as is the lingua of the times. I feel born anew, as vulnerable as a baby panda, and as small. I feel so obvious, transparent. How could I not have known. But I had, of course. It was there like a splinter too small to be grasped by the tweezers and the skin grown over the wound.

I do not keep a journal. I go for walks. I go for drives. I start looking for a new apartment and eventually move into it. I let the dog sleep in the bed with me. We find a kind of rhythm. He holds his wee 10 hours a day while I’m at work and never gives me the grump cold shoulder when I come slugging in like a corpse begrudgingly reanimated.

I do not suddenly come out of it. I do not move forward. I do not get over it. I do not wake in the morning healed and bright as though freed from the grasp of some cold and insistent nightmare. Rather, I am starting to make trips down to the cooperative grocer to buy packs of tofu and the cheapest wine they have on their refrigerator shelves, the tall sixers of cans of Old German lager that go for five dollars and change. I press the water out of the tofu over the kitchen sink and eat it plain, following it with glugs from the bottle. I feed the dog. We do what we can. Sit, stare, keen, wobble. We navigate without benefit of compass or stars.

Because of this slow transition into a sullen, insomniatic quasi-drunkard, I call the almost-free therapy center at the local big city university. On the phone, I try my best to be calm, to make cognizant speech, but blubber so much it is like making words with soft stones.

The soft voice in my ear had questions. It had to ask why I was calling. Why I thought I needed to come in. I would start to talk and then, just like breathing, would start sobbing. The soft voice in my