Sammy was alone and she was dancing half-naked in front of a full-length mirror they had purchased together. It was technically his because he bought it with his money. She bought the television. He bought the grey couch and the kitchen table. The mattress was the one he had at his old apartment, the apartment with the rusty sink and the refrigerator that never seemed to get cold enough to keep the vegetables fresh for more than two days.
It was six in the evening in the center of winter and it was miserably dark outside, the sky just this impossibly depressing, inky thing and not the source of joy it was during the summers full of evening heat and possibility.
Department of Eagles played loudly from some corner of the living room, filling her hallway with “No One Does It Like You.”
But I tried so hard.
I tried so hard.
I tried so hard.
It was and had been on loop for the better part of thirty-seven minutes. She danced what she intended to be an attempt at ballet even though she had never been properly trained. When Sammy was a child she took classes but quit after being scolded for dancing to “Under the Sea” with her fist closed tightly around a pink rhinestone. It had fallen off of her ballet slipper and she had placed it on the floor next to her until she saw the girl with the brown hair eyeing it suspiciously. When it was Sammy’s turn to spin around the room to the voice of a singing lobster, she did it while protecting that stupid plastic thing and she cried when the teacher told her she couldn’t do that and she might break her hand if she fell. She wasn’t in trouble but she felt like she was and she sobbed deeply and her chest heaved within her leotard and she was thankful when she got chickenpox the next week. She never went to ballet class again.
Sammy was alone in the apartment for the first time in months. Carl was away on some work trip, probably flirting with foreign girls and feeling the invigorating power of lust. People needed that, Sammy knew. It made you feel worthwhile. It affirmed things that you should have already known without the validation of a person who wanted to kiss you, have sex with you, date you. None of that mattered. At the end of the day, all you were left with was you. They had been together for years and still all Sammy had was herself.
No one does it like you.
No one does it like you.
The song had started again and Sammy watched her arms move with an unknowing grace. She looked at a face that was older now but oddly more beautiful. She leaned and stretched and her toes bent in limited, unqualified ways. She was alone and she breathed and she danced alone.
It had been too long and she had been consumed by this – by them, by this house, by the expectations people placed on the chronological order of monogamy. She wanted disorder. She wanted chaos and groping, grasping, desperate love all over again. The frantic hands filled with newness. It had died living in this house because of the control. The rent that was due every thirty days and the bills that they split in half.
She was tired of him and she was tired of the her that she had become as a result. She was tired of not wearing that dress he didn’t like and not wearing her retainer to bed at night and negotiating what concerts were worth spending the money on. She was sick of listening to his music even though it was good – even though it was better than her music, which had was now a three-year-old archive of her single life, back when she dutifully searched for music that moved her personally. His soundtrack had become her soundtrack and these songs were doomed to be only memories of him. But she would always have this memory – this moment of temporary levity, like that part of the day where the sun burns off the marine layer, that particular moment when light supersedes fog. She would remember a moment that she had not lived in some time, dancing freely to a song that was hers because he hadn’t beaten her to it.
It was winter and she danced and Sammy felt the love melting away like the snow in their backyard – full and abundant and alarmingly pure at first and dissolving over the course of its short life, layer by layer, unnoticed until the sad brown earth revealed itself in muddy rough patches.