5/27/14

Everything I'd Never Know
By Amy Burns


We paid a lot for that mattress but I never liked it. When we bought it, I was still under the misconception that more expensive was always better and my new husband, the first one, was still under the misconception that the sun rose and set on me. So we paid a lot of money for an enormous, uncomfortable mattress which we slept on most nights, us naked and the mattress bare, because we couldn’t find sheets to fit. We had only one set of right-sized sheets. His mother bought them for us but I refused to use them because they were cheap.
I hated that mattress but I still took it when we separated. The courts gave me a deadline to vacate because I couldn’t afford to maintain the marital home while the divorce was finalized and because we’d only been married for three-years and because we didn’t have children, the courts refused to grant temporary restitution.
My attorney said, “Adultery doesn’t carry much weight unless you’ve been married a long time or if there are children involved.” Under the circumstances he seemed pleased with himself. “I managed to finagle a fourteen-day grace period. You’ve got two-weeks to remove your personal belongings.”
So on the fourteenth day of my fourteen-day grace period, I went to the house and started hoiking my things in the back of a rental van. I didn’t bring boxes or packing material or tape or blankets. For the first hour or so I simply grabbed just about anything I could, stood at the door and tossed things into the back of the van. A surprising number of the dinner plates stayed intact.
I was alone which meant that I had to get creative with the heavy things. A chest-of-drawers I walked out, inching right feet forward; inching left feet forward until all the legs were loose or cracked but in the van, nonetheless. Some heavy things I rested on a blanket and pulled them through the house, never mind the door facings, and when I managed to inch them onto the van’s bumper, I pushed until they either slid into place or fell.
Not much I moved that day remained unscathed. By late afternoon I was so tired, so wet with sweat, so numbed by the dismantling of all that I thought I wanted, the things I wanted to want, I don’t know; I lost what little sentimentality I had. I left behind my high school yearbooks and my grandmother’s sewing machine and a box of my old baby clothes including my first pair of shoes, which mother has never forgiven.
She stood at her kitchen sink and cried. “I knew I couldn’t trust you with them.”
And when she told me that, I wondered several things, none of which I bothered asking.
But that fourteenth day, even though my back was killing me and I was exhausted and my head was full of half-truths and exaggerated injustices, I did go back inside for that nightmare of a stained mattress. I probably took it because I didn’t want him and his new girlfriend to have a convenient place to fuck. I knew she’d been in that bed before. He’d called drunk a couple of weeks after we split up and confessed all sorts of things; mainly things that made him feel better.
I turned the mattress on its side and pushed it toward the wall where it fell, limp and bent. It slid down the wall until it hunched in a sort of discouraged crescent.
Underneath the bed I found a couple of hundred dollars worth of drugs, some pornography and a bottle of dandruff shampoo that rattled when I kicked it. I sat down on the floor and opened one of the magazines. There was a blonde who grappled with her breasts in such a determined way that I wondered what she hoped to accomplish. She seemed angry with them. I thought it entirely possible that she planned to push them both into the worn calf of an old cowboy boot that rested on the bed beside her.
I poked through the old cigar box where my husband kept his stash - or my almost husband, almost ex-husband - whatever he was to me during those flexuous days. He loved the idea of drugs but he was never a connoisseur. Give him a Midol and tell him it was good shit and he’d be rolling around on the floor in no time at all going on about the colours… the beautiful colours. He couldn’t tell schwag from sweet bud. So I was shocked to see that he had a fat eight and what looked like a tidy slip of heroin.
I went into the kitchen and tore off a strip of aluminium foil, came back and ripped the blonde and her tits out of the magazine and rolled a makeshift. There was a lighter in the old cigar box. I folded the foil, loaded a chuck and cooked and chased. Cooked and chased. I sweated as I smoked. I burned my fingers one good time and I put the shit down and waited.
I reached for the bottle of dandruff shampoo and shook it. I imagined it full of… what? Chicken teeth, ostrich teeth, teeth, teeth, teeth. The more I said it, the stranger it sounded. Teeth. I opened the bottle and poured the contents onto the carpet.
It was earrings. Singles. No matches. All different. Some with stones. Some gold. Some silver. A few, plastic.
I gathered a fist full of earrings in my left hand and the shampoo bottle in my right. I crawled over to the mattress and fell down into the bow of crippled springs. I wondered why he had all those earrings. I wondered why just one of each. I wondered what it meant. I didn’t wonder long. I felt warm. And warm. And I felt warm.
Euphoria came and answered everything I’d never know.


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Amy Burns is the editor of Mulberry Fork Review. She earned a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow. Amy is currently working on her second novel.


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