Tag Archives: barbi

Broken

You dropped a dish, and with it all pretenses. You asked if I was leaving.

Kneeling in these shattered half-truths, I can’t lie. “I don’t know. Do you want me to?”

“No.”

Our mended hearts are fragile, and in each others’ hands.


Trouble

They didn’t know that girls like you are trouble for girls like me. Your perfect nails, your laugh in the dark. They didn’t expect your vulnerability to be the thing to break me. I didn’t expect to be the one to break.


Exhale

In the span of a breath, everything changed. Only I didn’t know it then.

Before, back when I was just plain Renée and things were easy, I’d walk into a place, score another notch on my belt. I’d bring them home and let them leave. And that was okay. It was more than fine, because everybody leaves Renée. My father did it, when he died. My grandma too. My sister made it pretty clear she didn’t want to have anything to do with me, and my brother just disappeared. Who knows where he is now?

And my mother, she left me years before I brought her to St. Andrew’s, years before she shuddered out a breath, called me Ken and asked me where I was going and why. She was so small, huddled in that chair. In that moment when my mother called me by my father’s name, all I knew was I was leaving her, just like he did. I don’t even look like him, much.

From the first time I fumbled with the wrong-way buttons on my shirt, I knew I wanted to be the one who left. It was safer. I didn’t call myself Kenneth. That would be weird – what girl wants to be her father? But I loved the memory of him, and so I remembered him in the only way that made sense to me.

I never would have hit on Barbi if I hadn’t been out with the boys that night. She wasn’t my type. I could tell right away, she wasn’t the type to leave before breakfast. But I was wearing my best three-piece suit and was feeling a little high on borrowed male energy. I fed her line after line, and she was so vulnerable, she ate them up. It wasn’t my finest moment. I took her home and I didn’t touch her because I knew, I already knew I didn’t want her to leave. And everybody leaves Renée.

You have to understand: it’s not about the clothes. It’s not about anatomy. It’s about control. I sabotage myself, because it’s easier to know that it’s my fault than to wonder what I did to make them leave. And if, as Ken, I drive someone away, it’s maybe not Renée they are leaving. It’s not my fault.

Only she didn’t leave. She didn’t leave Ken, and she didn’t leave Renée. And how the fuck do I deserve that kind of loyalty?

And this is what terrifies me. Because in the span of a breath, everything changes. There’s no slow withering. Love comes and goes. Friendships are made and broken. People die, or are killed, or go on to live some endless lifetime somewhere else. I’m just waiting for the next exhale.


Mornings

I slide out from between the tangled sheets, carefully, so I don’t disturb Barbi. I always get up first. That way she doesn’t run into Renée.

The sun’s up, has been up for an hour or so. It was the crows that woke me. Goddamn birds. I eye the coffeepot, but we’ve got a less-than-cordial relationship so I decide to leave that to Barbi. Unless I get really desperate.

Instead, I duck out onto the balcony. There’s a chaise here and a couple of chairs. I tip over an empty flowerpot and retrieve my cigarettes. It’s easier to leave them here than to always be searching my coat pockets. Plus, Barbi swears she can smell them even through the packaging.

I don’t have a lighter, but I don’t need one. I let the cigarette hang from the corner of my mouth as I settle on the chaise and then pinch the end. It lights with a faint puff of smoke and I take a long, grateful drag.

I like having these early morning moments to myself. It’s just about the only time I feel comfortable in my own skin. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not Barbi’s fault. It’s just something I gotta work through.

I think about that for a while. I’ve kinda lost track of who’s inside my skin at any given time. At first it was happenstance – me falling for Barbi, and Barbi falling for Ken. I never intended it to stick. I never expected her to stick around. And then it was easier to just be Ken – carry that public face over into our private lives. Until she found out about Renée.

Renée’s a public face too, if I’m being honest. Sure, that’s the name I was born with, but Renée’s all swagger and nerve. She’d never be sitting out here, alone on the balcony, having a smoke and feeling sorry for herself. She be in that bed making sure Barbi woke up in the most pleasant way possible, freely and in the bright of the sun. If Barbi weren’t in love with Ken.

And then there’s Renie. Barbi’s never met Renie. It’s what my mother calls me. Renie’s the one that grew up too fast, when mom checked out. Renie’s the one that cleaned up the bottles and washed the empty glasses. Renie’s the one who stepped up and took care of little Jo and big brother Peter, and who nursed a grudge for fifteen years. Then it turned out it was not plain alcoholism, it was Alzheimer’s, and she wasn’t drinking to forget, she was drinking to remember. And Renie did the right thing and let them take our mother away when she needed me most.

I’m not sure what happened to Renie. At some point she just slipped away. She’s still there, buried deep inside, only maybe not so deep, y’know what I mean? I feel like she’s peeking through, now and then, and I really don’t know how I feel about that.

“Ken?” Barbi calls out sleepily. I hear her through the open bedroom window.

“Yeah, baby,” I answer. She knows my routine.

“You wanna put on the coffee?”

I don’t, but that’s what she needs from me right now. I put out the cigarette and go inside.


Want more of my accidental writing project with Rowan?

Thieves

The question is implicit, the answer inevitable. You snag olives off my plate while I pretend not to see. Another man might’ve grumbled, or stolen the cherry from your drink. I steal a kiss instead and make long, lingering plans for later.