"It's only fair to tell you now,
that I leave early in the morning,
and I won't be back 'til next year.
I see that kiss-me pucker forming,
but maybe you should plug it with a beer."

- "Papa Was a Rodeo, The Magnetic Fields

Papa Was a Rodeo

Or Please don't be scared child, Our Dreams Evolve

He sits on the edge of the bed, his back to me. He does not move. I'm doing something in the periphery, something to keep my hands busy. I stare at him, and he does not move. Our friends call, and I make some excuse to cancel the dinner party. He is sick, sick as a dog. They are kind and pretend to believe me. When I go back to the room I try to talk to him; I end up sounding like my father. I call him ungrateful. I call him useless. I make him cry. But he will not move.

I don't know much. I know that if he were ever to turn around, the dreams would stop. I do not understand him. He is a mystery to me. I know he is an artist, I know that he is bipolar. I know that his rages and fits, his cold silences are getting longer. We might be disintergrating.

This was my first dream of love. I never saw happy endings; only reams of pregnant pauses shooting out into space. I knew that I could never love fully, and therefore would always be alone.

Neg"a*tive, n. Cf. F. n'egative.

5. Photog.

A picture upon glass or other material, in which the light portions of the original are represented in some opaque material (usually reduced silver), and the dark portions by the uncovered and transparent or semitransparent ground of the picture.
A negative is chiefly used for producing photographs by means of the sun's light passing through it and acting upon sensitized paper, thus producing on the paper a positive picture. - Webster 1913

I pick him up at the airport early in the morning. He doesn't know what my new car looks like, so I stand out in the cold, rubbing my hands together. I consider putting my arms inside my sweater but I don't. Adults don't do things like that.

He's in a military jacket and has a full beard. I don't want to know how Europe was. It was amazing, I know. He's the kind of guy that would downplay the experience. He likes to be sarcastic and above everything.

As soon as we slide into the car I can tell he is sizing me up, seeing if we can have sex again. But we can't. It's not as if I won't sleep with old lovers; I just am not attracted to him. Never have been. I ask how he is. He tells me he is tired, hungry, and "kinda horny". He says the last one with a small laugh, looking out the window.

"Let's work on the first two." I say.

After eating at a diner near the airport, we start off driving through the West Texas dawn. The road snakes through cacti and dead trees; the rising sun splashes orange on miles and miles of desert. In every direction there is open space and sky.

The car's heater is on low, and he cracks a window. "Do you still smoke?" He asks. Rarely. Never in the car.

"Yeah." I say, taking one from him. The tobacco has been packed down firmly; there is a lip of paper at the end. We smoke and I turn on some music. We don't speak for a while. The last I see of him, he's walking into a crowd in Clovis.

The ride home is easy. For my second dream of love is not sad. It is the dream that starts when I realized that no one will ever stay, but that had to be enough. When your first love dies, you give up on forever.


When I dreamed of love in my youth, these were the only dreams I had. They represented my tragic flaw: I was unloveable.


The third dream is shorter. Before I go to bed, I rub lotion on his feet. They are rough and the toenails are hard; he doesn't take care of them. When I touch his hands it reminds me of moist frog skin. I look in his eyes as I do and he slays me with another smile. These past few years he has ceased to age in my eyes. I can't see either of us as old men; there are still so many Saturdays to be had. Only a week before he told me I saved his life. I cried, like I always do.

I watch him sleep that night. When we first met all I could think about was that one secret part of him. Now I obsess about other things. His jaw is strong and stubborn. His hair is thin and silky and he no longer tries to dye it. When we go out, we go together. We don't seem to need other people anymore.

That night, his breathing slows to a stop. He dies in his sleep, but I don't die. I make funeral arrangements and then I evaporate. Without him there is no reason to stick around. We have made a happy life together, and a likewise happy death. This is my new dream of love.


I love too much.

I can't love anyone.

I love him.