We fought so hard Teddy told me
to pull over on the highway so he could get out.
Why pop musicians use children’s voices
in their songs was what we were fighting about.
I asked him why he thought they did.
“Huh,” he said, “I never thought about that.”
“You never thought about that?” I asked, really asking,
“Why haven’t you ever thought about anything?”
and really saying, “You’ve been all your life
so talented and beautiful you’ve never had to
think.” He almost moved to Iowa with me.
Instead, from our collective existence blessed
by natural gifts, erupted miseries we are still kept
apart and from our better labors by. Teddy’s
disregard for health and even sometimes
life itself inspires me. He could do anything
but likes to fail, so though his presence
creates expectation, no one expects of him
more than he’s willing to give. He saves the time
he doesn’t spend for the musician he will be
or is, as I suspect we have by now become
what we always thought we were
working toward. Teddy made me feel
I could do anything. He told me
if I’d picked up the cello young enough
I’d have been better than him.
That’s a picture of our love then,
mine usurped by Teddy’s obsession,
the healthy part of which, his admiration,
changed me irreversibly. Now Teddy
admires no one, which is the first step
toward real humility. “Of course
I think I’m better than you,” he said to
but not of me. He said it as part of a story.
We had been walking with sweating iced teas
but stopped to sit on the small side steps of
the Ukrainian Catholic Church with gold mosaics.
He described his latest breakup and breaking in
to his ex’s house to steal back the mandolin
she stole from him. With me, he never even
got out of the car. Teddy had a white van
that smelled like Serenity, an essential oil blend
“someone gave me” and that before the ride
home he applied to my wrists and neck.
“I just think if that if anything happens
between us again it should be with intention,”
I said. Teddy laughed. “I understand,” he said,
“why you would say that.” We pulled up
outside The Meter Building, on Wood Street,
where once, when I was asleep and didn’t hear
the landline ring, he left a note on my car
that read, “I’m on our side.”
We go on faith that others know
the silent contracts we keep with them.
It was of Teddy my misconception
that to the unspoken he lacked
the subtlety to agree. It was my own
lack of subtlety I couldn’t see.
Leaving the van, I turned to make sure
I hadn’t left anything in my seat.
JESSICA LASER is the author of the Sergei Kuzmich from All Sides, forthcoming from Letter Machine Editions. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she is currently pursuing a doctorate in English Literature at UC Berkeley.