I made the music blare and gave her a few shakes, but she didn't move so I shut the car off and went to her side, opened her door and said, "Can you walk on your own?" but since her eyes had shut again and her head swiveled every direction like a broken compass, I knew she couldn't.
I threw her arm around my shoulder and guided her. We only took two steps before her legs went boneless, flaccid, falling, but I was able to catch her, swooping her up in my arms, the way a groom carries a bride on their wedding night.
We lived on the second story, and I started struggling up the stairs, and she said, "Admit you want to have sex with her," and I didn't say anything, concentrating on climbing those steps, tried pretending that my ears were locked like safes and her words didn't know the combinations, but it didn't work. I had no guard from anything that came out of her mouth. Mired said, "Go back and screw her," and I tried to cinch my ears closed. I said, "Shut up," and she said, "I deserve more than you," and I couldn't believe what I was hearing, couldn't fathom how she figured she deserved more. It didn't make any sense, since I was the one trying to do the right thing.
I was halfway there, only six steps left. My arms shaking. I looked at Mired's face as she kept telling me how much better she deserved, which got me thinking about how much better I deserved, which led me to the very notion of love, and I remembered that old cliché: If you love something set it free.
I arched my back because she seemed to be getting heavier with every stepshe'd been getting heavier for months now, every time she said mechanics don't make enough money, every time we had our maintenance sex, something we did these days to avoid a breakdown, like getting an oil change.
I craned our combined weight up to the next stair, my biceps burning, arms unable to hold her as high, which put increased pressure on the small of my back. Mired said, "You should love me more, Derek," and I felt a puncturing, like a nail jammed into a tire, except there was no tire, just me. Like something had ripped into my skin and there I was, leaking affection and patience and resilience. Spilling love.
My feet worked their way around, doing a one-eighty on that thin step, and I faced the bottom, and I let my arms go limp and dropped her and she hit right at my feet and flipped backward and then bounced all the way to the bottom of the stairs and landed in a contorted heap, tangled like human laundry.
She didn't make any noise, didn't move.
I looked around to see if anyone was watching. There didn't seem to be so I rushed down the stairs and crouched next to her mangled face.
I said, "Are you all right?"
I said, "Jesus, baby, you fell down the stairs!"
Excerpt from Joshua Mohr's Termite Parade.
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