We had definitely burnt the pastries, but we didn’t know that yet.
I believe that bad things don’t just pile on you from nowhere. I believe that little things come bit by bit, like a drip. It takes all those little things before you can realise that it’s all gone wrong. First you dropped a wine glass, then nearly broke down in the en suite, then you need to get down on your hands and knees to pick up your spilt pills which scattered over the bathroom floor, then you apparently forgot to tell me about the smashed glass after I had come home from work and had taken off my shoes. But did we laugh about it.
You claimed to be handy with a tweezers, so when we flung the tarts in the oven, you started trying to pull out the little shards out of my uncooperative sole.
“Stop being such a baby.” You stuck your tongue out when you smiled like that. It made me smile back. You and your carnelian eyes, with your peaking tongue but your absolute inability to not tear through my skin taking out small pieces of glass.
“Maybe I should go to the doctor.”
“This won’t take long. I think there’s only these two big bits left. Wait,” You brushed your hand over my foot, just to make sure I only winced twice, “Yep, only two bits to go.”
“Thank God.” I grinded my teeth a lot. I had a habit of becoming dentiloquent when there was something else going on in my mind. Sometimes you kissed me to make me stop - something I never really minded.
You rested your fingers on mine, as if this were childbirth, or anything remotely serious. But I did need to turn my hand around to squeeze yours after you had tugged it out the wrong way, causing a few more trails of blood to drip onto my socks.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry!” You hopped backwards as I cradled my heel.
“You’re not great with the tweezers, I don’t mind telling you that.”
I made you giggle, with your almost amber eyes peaking out through your fingers. You were truly beautiful. I rested my foot down while I watched your hands sink into your lap, like each hand was a elegant dancer drifting into plies. I took one of them between my more worn, more leathery hands. You were always warm, so unlike the end.
I thought you were getting better for a long time, but I’m not sure you would know that. In retrospective, I should have told you. I suppose it’s one of those little things that doesn’t matter until it does. It’s funny how something can mean nothing until it suddenly means everything. A little like you, I think.
I didn’t even know about the pills on the bathroom floor until later, but it wasn’t like they were anything other than what your doctor prescribed you. And the wine glass was an honest mistake. I think the smallest things can become a force of habit, like putting enough pressure into your fingertips to hold a glass. But you hadn’t done much of anything in a very long time, so I couldn’t blame you. You were making us a candlelit dinner to thank me for staying home to care for you the past few weeks. It was one of my first few days back in the office, and I was so glad to see you were safe at home. I had even ran to a different bus stop in the rain to get home quicker to see you as soon as I could. But apparently you didn’t need that. You were too busy anyway, telling me to go dry off and stop distracting you when you were preparing dessert. You waved me off too. It was almost like you were free in your own mind. Almost as if you were getting your own power back. So can you blame me when I had been sure you were better?
“Okay, one last shard. Just one more.” You got back in your battle position, eyeing the bulging glass.
“You do even one more and I’ll end up with an infection.”
“No you won’t. And it’s definitely just one more piece, I think…” You tried to run the back of your hand over my broken skin again, but I slapped your wrist away.
“Stop trying to kill me!” I said, and you laughed again.
“Just one piece.”
“Maybe I should-”
“It’ll be quick.”
“But healing this won’t be.”
“You were trotting around our kitchen floor barefoot, it’s your fault. Now, let me just-”
“My fault? You smashed the glass!”
“Oh, you’re such a baby, I’m just going to…”
“I’ll end up needing an amputation.”
“I’m only going to pull it straight out.”
“It’ll be fine.”
“God help me. But really, please-”
“Just like a band-aid. One, two, three…”
“Hey, please try not to- What the hell! oh my f-”
I doubled over. You were not able to wield a tweezers, as expected, and you ended up slicing my skin right down my foot.
You were chewing your lip and trying to get a good look at my wound, but I was pushing you away. No one would ever suspect that you couldn’t take the sight of blood.
“It’s fine. Just a flesh wound. Love, would you mind grabbing an actual band-aid?”
Our bathroom was very small, but it still echoed. I remember your giggling. I thought I should have been afraid that I had let you go to the bathroom alone, but you were happy. There was blood and mistakes and everything had gone wrong - but there you stood, in the doorframe in your fluffy red pajamas covered in pictures of bears in eye masks. Your warm hands on your hips, your long sandy hair in a messy bun, and your sleepy button eyes nearly tearing up while you attempted to bite down on your bubbly laughter.
“Dinosaurs?” You said, “We are reasonably mature adults. Why on earth do we have dinosaur plasters?”
I started laughing too. At that stage, it felt really good to let your binds undo and just laugh a little bit over how badly our life had crumbled apart.
“Do you not remember?” I said.
“No.” You said.
You then came and sat on the kitchen island beside me and I told you the story. It was nice to feel your warm leg again mine. Pajamas and suits. It reminded me of our trips in the car over desert roads, or side by side talks on brick walls in Christmas snows.
The story was that once you had cut yourself badly in an airport after we had returned from Bangladesh. Nothing drastic, you had just reached into your makeup bag and caught the palm of your hand on nail scissors. But knowing your fear of blood, I had ran through the entire airport looking for anywhere that sold plasters of any description. But since we were in a cheap airport at the gates, so naturally each shop clerk passed me on to the next place and the next place. You were sitting on the freezing metal benches, clutching your hand and breathing heavily. Knowing that you passing out when we were just about to grab our connecting flight was not ideal, I had to risk my arm at being charged for attacking an underage person, and asked a small boy with a chubby face and a large backpack if he had any plasters he could lend me. Since he was just sticking them to random spots on his face, I figured ten dollars was a good trade for some loose dinosaur plasters. And since neither of us have done many things since then, they have resided in our bathroom cupboard until that moment.
You shook your head, “I don’t remember that. But I do remember the cut. It hurt really bad.”
“I’m sure it did. Well, it doesn’t really matter, it was fairly funny back then.”
You smiled up at me with tight lips, “Bangladesh was fun, huh?”
“It was.” I kissed your forehead, “And thanks for helping me with my cut. I know how much you hate that sort of thing.”
You put on finger on my chin, to angle my head far enough down to lightly peck my lips. It had the weight of a feather, but it’s the little touches that I remember.
“No problem.” You said, slipping your hand between mine.
I believe that all bad things are lots of very small events leading up to a crash. The milky way is made up of constellations, like our mistakes making up a climax. I think that if I could have gotten a telescope I could have found all of the little marks in your skin, simply from the bumps and bruises, and I could have massaged them away until the great big ending was just a dream from another multiverse. Because maybe if I knew all of the little things they would never even be a galaxy. Maybe just a pathetic excuse for a cluster lingering over head. But you never told me. I didn’t know that your boss had cut you off, although he promised you a job after you had gotten better. I didn’t know that your older step sister had died after she had an asthmatic attack in her sleep, and although you had only met her a handful of times, your mom had stopped calling to check on you, and instead had started calling to her stepdaughter’s husband. I didn’t know that you had cancelled your AA meetings after a woman there had slapped you, nearly knocking you to the floor. She was already disinvited, but it had completely turned you off the idea of going to the last reason you had to get outside. I didn’t even know that you were finding how to get used to the sight of blood in the way I had always feared you one day would. I wouldn’t find that out until the coroner’s report, would you believe. I suppose you always did hide your scars well.
If I had known that the bad things were piling up, I would have held your hand that little bit tighter, because I can hardly remember it now. I would have kissed you right there, and never stopped. We could have pulled the tea towels over ourselves and slept like that, with our ankles locked, on the kitchen island. It would have been like those early Spring mornings by the open windows in our cushioned bed. I miss a lot about you, but that place is a nerve in my head. Our cool, white bed. Running our fingers over each other, over the sun’s golden brush strokes that stretched across the blankets. Your head on the crook of my arm, your palm on my chest, your cold feet on my legs. You’d laugh and tell me things you didn’t think you’d ever tell anyone. Speaking in whispers only lovers could hear. I think I miss all that most of all. But if I had noticed all the little mistakes, I’m not sure whether I’d have laughed or cried when you smelled burning. Maybe both. Maybe it doesn’t matter.
“Oh crap, I forgot about the cooking!” You flung open the oven door, but there wasn’t much to be seen but a few odd wisps of smoke drifting off of chards of a solid attempt.
I think I laughed. I mean, I must have, but all I remember is your smile. That one that made your tongue poke out in the cutest way. It was too big for your face, and so bright, and so completely beautiful.
So can you blame me for believing that you were getting better?