Sabrina Orah Mark

LET'S DO THIS ONCE MORE,
BUT THIS TIME WITH FEELING

 

LOUIS CK, MY HUSBAND, PILES all my seahorses in the middle of our king-sized bed and starts shouting. I see moon and stars seahorse, and green seahorse and the one with no eyes, and pink seahorse, and says-things seahorse, and pregnant seahorse, and I see the sad one, but I don’t see black seahorse. “Where is black seahorse, Louis?” This makes Louis CK, my husband, even angrier. In a fake little girl voice, all singsong, he goes “WheRe is BlAcK SeAhoRSe, LoUIs!?” My husband, Louis CK, is not being very nice. So I say, “No, not black seahorse Louis, just black seahorse,” which makes Louis roar. So I say, “What’s the matter, Louis? Why so boiled?”

“What does your anger, Louis, have to do with my seahorses?” 

We go through this every night. 

In the morning everything is fine. 

Louis CK and I hold hands. We go to the meadow and make love. We do not bring up the seahorses. Louis pulls my head all the way back. He kisses my throat. His lips are rough like rope. I call out, Sweet, Sweet Nothing. “Who?” asks Louis. He looks around. “Who,” he asks, “is Sweet, Sweet Nothing?” “You,” I say, though it’s impossible to be sure.

I cannot explain it, but ever since the seahorses Louis and I have become less and less human. Our ability to speak had gone from stratospheric to cloudy. “Tell me about eternity, Louis.” And Louis tells me all about eternity using mostly the wildflowers from the meadow. For hours and hours, with the petals and stems he builds boats and whole entire cities and nations of people with terrible long flowing hair, but nothing really comes of it. He speaks for a long time, but the words are few and far between and half-finished. Like somewhere in the middle of being words they closed their eyes and fell asleep and dreamed they were seahorses.

When we get home, Louis CK, my husband, piles all my seahorses in the middle of our queen-sized bed and starts shouting. “I thought, Louis, we had a king-sized bed.” Our bed now is unquestionably queen, giving the seahorses the illusion of looking larger than they had the night before. Black seahorse is still missing. Louis doesn’t answer or look at me. He just keeps piling and shouting and piling and shouting. I see super seahorse and old seahorse and nowhere seahorse and sorry seahorse and the one the other seahorses call the Saint and the one they call the Fool. 

We go through this every night. 

In the morning everything is fine. 

Louis CK and I go to the diner. We sit in our favorite booth. “I love you,” says Louis. “I love you more,” I say. We hold hands. We are very alive. The waitress takes our order. Louis orders two soft boiled eggs, coffee, and toast with strawberry jam. I order the same. We do not bring up the seahorses. The waitress’s name is Poppy. She is wearing a t-shirt with a blue and red rocket ship. Poppy serves us our breakfast. “Where is the rocket ship going?” asks Louis. Poppy looks at me. I shrug. I have no idea. Poppy looks at Louis. She looks down at the rocket ship. “Isn’t it always going to the moon?” asks Poppy. “I guess so,” says Louis. There is a little bit of jam on Louis’s cheek. Poppy dips a napkin into my water glass and wipes it off. She kisses Louis on the mouth. He kisses her back. They kiss for a long, long time. “Don’t be wounded,” she whispers. “Don’t be wounded more,” he whispers back. While they kiss I build a tower out of all the jams and pats of butter and honeys. I collect them from all the booths. The tower is so high I have to stand on the table to keep building. At the very top, I imagine perching hold-me seahorse and never-let-me-go seahorse but, seconds before Louis and Poppy finally stop kissing, the whole tower comes toppling down. 

“Is that all there is?” asks Louis. We look around. It seems it is. The diner is empty. Jams and butters and honeys are everywhere. Poppy has disappeared into the kitchen. Possibly forever. We look out the window. Out on the street are a few orange and red and green bouncing balls neither Louis nor I have even seen before, but otherwise not much else. Our friend Ferguson runs past us. I knock hard on the glass and call out, “Hey, Ferguson is that all there is?” But he doesn’t hear me. “Go on without us,” calls out Louis. But Ferguson has already gone on.

“Look,” says Louis. “Something fell out of Ferguson’s pocket.” Louis and I rush out of the empty diner to see what it is. Two identical black seahorses lie on their sides. Their heads are touching. I am careful not to get too close. There is something wrong with these seahorses. It is possible their heads are attached. It is possible neither one is my black seahorse. It is possible they are not alive. 

“So is THAT all there is?” asks Louis. He waves his arms around, messily. He seems angry. I don’t know if by THAT he means the seahorses or my feelings about the seahorses or my still missing black seahorse or the flash of Ferguson or the broken tower forever ruined or the orange and red and green bouncing balls which are all still bouncing or life in general or eternity or his undying love for me which might be dying a little on account of the seahorses and on account of kissing Poppy. 

When we get home Louis CK, my husband, piles all our seahorses in the middle of our twin bed and starts shouting. I think back to the two identical black seahorses. What, if anything, belongs to me? I mean, really belongs to me? I look up at Louis. Our bed is shrinking. Every day he destroys me. And every day I destroy him in return. Little tiny bits of destroying. It’s barely noticeable. We have a baby somewhere, but it is too small. Louis is piling and shouting and piling and shouting. I see bruise seahorse and growling seahorse and rotten seahorse and close-up seahorse and wooden seahorse and happy seahorse and the empty one, but I don’t see black seahorse. I call Ferguson. He doesn’t answer. I leave a message. 

We go through this every night. In the morning everything is fine.

Louis? “Yes, Seahorse?” Louis calls me Seahorse. Have we gotten to the sad part yet? “Yes, Seahorse, we have.” 

“When do we get to the funny part, Louis?” “Soon,” says Louis. “Soon.” 

 Louis CK and I go to the misty boneyard. Ferguson is there. He is swaying back and forth like he’s praying. In the middle of the boneyard is a water fountain. I take a sip. Louis takes a sip. He looks around. “Whose bones are these, Seahorse?” I look around. “Probably ours,” I say. Louis puts his hand over his mouth and spits. A tooth falls out. A small one. It is hardly essential to Louis’s mouth. “Have we gotten to the funny part, Louis?” “No, Seahorse, not yet.” He gives me the tooth to hold. I shift it in my palm. It is ice-cold. 

In the space where Louis’ tooth once was is a tiny white seahorse, flashing bright. We slow dance in the misty boneyard. When Louis isn’t looking, I let his tooth fall out of my hand and disappear into a pile of bones.

Ferguson is still swaying. He shakes his fists in the air, opens them, and out flies a shower of black seahorses. I count fifty. Maybe more. 

I collect them all. I stuff them into my shirt.

I am hungry. I want more black seahorses because my black seahorse is still missing. Louis CK, my husband, and I go back to look for the seahorses that fell out of Ferguson’s pocket. It is a long walk from the misty boneyard to the diner. It takes us two full days, but we get there. The seahorses are exactly where we left them. With the tip of his thumb, Louis flips them over and quickly jumps back. The seahorses crack apart. There is writing on each belly. 

On one seahorse it says, “I do not belong to you.” 

On the other seahorse it says, “Neither do I.” 

Louis begins to laugh. Then I begin to laugh. Then Poppy emerges from the sunshine and she begins to laugh too. We are rolling on the ground laughing. I am laughing so hard my chest hurts. Like I am being shot in the heart over and over and over again by bullets in the shape of all the black seahorses that will never belong to me. I want to ask Louis if this is the funny part, but I am laughing so hard I can barely breathe. 

I want to ask Louis if this is the funny part, but when I catch my breath and look up, Poppy and Louis are gone. The only one to ask is a police officer whistling in the distance.

In the morning everything is fine.

 


SABRINA ORAH MARK is the author of the poetry collections The Babies and Tsim Tsum. Mark's awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and a Sustainable Arts Foundation Award. Her poems and stories most recently appear in Tin House (Open Bar), American Short Fiction, jubilat, B O D Y, The Collagist, and The Believer, and in the anthology My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales.

 

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