Christine Stroud Writing on the Wall

I had a dream you went missing and the police needed a sample of your handwriting. They came to me. I was the only person who had kept any of your letters—stacks of them in a bright yellow shoe box. They took them out delicately, but the thin paper still crinkled and rustled. As the young police man with black hair scrutinized the curve or your w, the curl of your y—I realized I must still love you. It was a dream. It made sense—I was the only one in the world who kept your letters, so we must still be in love.

Then I woke up, in love with you. All morning I walked with love for you like crystallized honey, hard as amber. I made oatmeal with too much cinnamon and ate it directly from the pot. What did I care? But the day stretched out like a cotton t-shirt, and the dream started to slip away. I couldn't remember which letters I showed to the cops, I couldn't remember if I held your pillow to my face when they left—breathing you in through the nose and trying to swallow your smell. I forgot how to still love you. On the way home from work, I drove with the radio off. In the silence I felt like a small child again with her first lost tooth, probing the empty space between her teeth with her tongue, trying to remember what the tooth felt like, having trouble believing it was ever there.

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