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Maryanne Stahl

For a long time, this is how it's been. Well, it seems like a long time.

We alternate between black and grey: black is on top in the print of the Rothko painting that hangs flat above our bed. When he's black, his mood is vile; when I am, I all but disappear. Grey is more difficult to summarize.

I bring him his tea in the morning. He had to teach me how to make it, milk first, heated. He brings me treats at bedtime: a glass of red wine, a bar of dark chocolate, raspberries. He is clever with fruit. I tell him it isn't really fair: he gets all the joy of his tea, whereas he also gets a good deal of the pleasure of feeding me. He laughs and wonders didn't I start this in the first place; doesn't he recall something about peaches?

You can see the brush strokes in the painting. You can see almost black in it, almost white. Sometimes, in the afternoon sun, the first layer of grey glows a little warmly, with a yellow light. Some winter days, looking at the Rothko print, I can't make the bed.

I'm mostly grey, of course; he's black or white. I yearn for white, the clarity of it. Our sheets are white, the duvet, the walls, the opaque shades. I have a black lacquer dresser and he has a black leather armchair. Huge. He sits in it, darkly, and broods. Air melts around his solid form.

He is sitting beneath the painting now, on his side of the bed, paring a mango with a bone-handled knife. I stand before him. He offers me a slice, glistening with a thin slime. I open my mouth and lean, and he slides the red-gold fruit onto my tongue. My heavy breasts swing toward his mouth.

And I close my eyes and he pulls me toward him and I'm filled with sparks and swirls. I open my eyes and look into his, here, now, for twenty-four hours--in the space of an embrace, I have just lived two years in my brain.

Inside me are bursts of color.


Maryanne Stahl's first novel, Forgive the Moon, has just been published by New American Library (Penguin-Putnam). Her short story, An Expense of Spirit, published in storySouth, has been nominated for the e2ink anthology. Visit her website.

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