Patrick Whitfill

She's not handing me the cup, and I'm telling her that's okay. It's okay that you aren't handing me the cup. We stand in front of the sink like this for ten minutes. My hand empty; hers, too. Except for the cup. She says that this isn't the only thing that we're supposed to think about right now, that I'm not really interested in just the cup. Just the cup, I say. It's all I want.

Your mother won't stop calling, she says. She's blow-drying her hair and holding her towel up. You have to talk to her. I tell her that I thought she was going to talk to her, but she shakes her head no. No. The roll of her eyes is supposed to tell me that I should already know this, and I guess that I do, and that it does. When you talk to her, she says over the feral purr of her dryer, tell her that the picture she emailed me last week was shit, but don't say it like that. I say that I won't, and shut the door.

Except for the man at the counter, we are the only two at the clinic. Nothing else stirs. They even took up the Highlights and People magazines, all of the Time. We sit with a chair between us. We sit with our backs straight. I try to say something about the dinner later, about the grocery store and the shitake and the orange juice, but when I open my mouth, the only thing that comes out is a sharp sound I can't bring my hand up fast enough to cover.

At least he was a nice nurse, she says in the car. He didn't have to be nice. We don't say anything else until I see a cat scribbling across the interstate off-ramp. I point to it, and she says that she hopes the little thing makes it. Poor thing, she says. We keep our eyes on the road, the radio off.

The broken glass is in shivers in the tile. The glass is in slivers in the tile. The glass is living in the tile. The glass is whispers in the tile. The glass is thin and excellent and surprising and driven straight to the heart after it leaves its breath in the tile and finds my finger and finds my blood and my blood and my blood.

She stays in her room, and I can hear through the door I've pressed my ear against that she's talking to her mother. She uses a smaller voice than when she talks to me. I can hear the padded footprints of her words getting louder, less hollow, and I know that she's moving closer to the door. I tell myself she's doing it for me, so that I can hear, so that I can know, too. I tell myself this and then I turn around, start the shower and listen to the water drumming against the tub.

She's outside when Jim, the neighbor, comes up to her and holds out his hand. They shake. Jim has a bright smile, and his eyes flash to her breasts. She pushes her hand up to her throat, coughs. I'm sitting in the bedroom with a popsicle and the Price is Right on mute. When she comes in I ask her what Jim wanted, and she shrugs her shoulders, takes off her shoes. I think he's lonely, she says after the final showcase. I tell her that I miss Bob Barker and I think I hear her laugh but don't turn to see it happen.

The next time we don't get the nice nurse, but a surly, unkempt man who won't look us in the eye. When he leaves the room and she's rubbing her arm, too, I tell her that I feel ashamed. I feel ugly, I say. I'm surprised that we both stop crying before he comes back, our faces rouged and splotchy and trying hard to smile.

I tell her that I wish we wouldn't come here, anymore, that I don't understand why we do it. She says we come because she wants to. I like their faces, she says. A bright blue and yellow fish swims up to the glass, and I hold my breath while it looks at me, then her, then me. You think it knows that we're not in the same world? She puts her hand on the glass and the fish shoots back into the greener backdrop. Do you think he understands that we're not breathing the same thing, that this isn't his world, too? I tell her that I don't know what it knows. Let's go home, I say. I want to go home, now. She says we will, and she grabs my hand, leads me down the next tunnel to the next glassed-in area.

When my mother comes by the house I turn off the lights and lie down on the floor. I hold my breath and do math in my head so that she won't hear me thinking about not opening the door. She knocks and knocks again, and when she's done she sits in her car for an hour. When she drives away, she slams the car horn and all of the squirrels in the maple dash across the yard, scurrying away.

I ask the lady at the pharmacy if they have a public restroom and she says no. I'm sorry, she says. For some reason I say, Thank you, before I walk away from the register and stare at the tabloids. By the time she brings my prescription to the counter from the back room I've learned the name of seven celebrity babies, and each one of them sounds like a joke I'm not getting. Can I get my wife's, too? No, sir, she says. We can't do that. Because I already did once, I don't say Thank you when I take the pills from her. On my way out, in my pocket, the bright pills jingle in their plastic vessel, hollow and clunky as a child's block toys.

There's pancakes and waffles and something with cantaloupe colored candy beans and Pepsi already poured over ice and Sprite and a jug of ice cream with the top melting a little bit and Twizzlers and sandwich meat and gouda and brie and fancy crackers and three different colors and densities of grape and one open bottle of wine and three unopened and in the middle of the table she's left a joint rolled with a kiss from her lipstick sealing it all in. Because we should, she says, when I ask her why.