I cannot abide splitting things. In the coffee shop, I refuse to lend out my chair to the fellow students. Is anyone using that? What can I say? A table with a chair missing is a table no more. It is something torn apart, its harmony disrupted.
And I cannot split payments at the grocery store, harried women in sweatpants pulling out wallets, arrays of credit cards spilling onto counters. I’ll put $20 on this card, $25 on this one. I think of the parts of themselves that are split apart, numbers which each hand, each mind, each soul is in hock to. A right finger has an interest rate of 23%, a left digit, 25%.
I never go to bars either. There are lines between friends and the lonely hearts slouched in booths. The people in the booths sit in shadows, the people in groups gather beneath bright lights and jukeboxes, their words kept within their space bubbles.
I have seen many splits. Parents dividing up furniture with lines and makeshift walls, along with visitation rights. Separate rooms and so-called inner sanctums. My older sister retreating into cool kids and leaving our games of detectives and nighttime confessions behind. Test scores and rankings, students self-grouped. Me in the average, state-school crowd. Then there were cool classes in college and uncool classes, girlfriends who thought me too artistic, my prose a little too manic.
In the spring, I put together things. I go for long runs, legs expanding into the expanse of the world, knobby entities expressing regrets and hopes. I take to movies and let the stresses of teaching loose, laughing in unison with audiences, also consumed with oversized tubs of popcorn and stingily packaged Skittles. And I repair the gaps in the porch swing, plant a garden with pansies, petunias, hyacinths, explosions of blues, and pinks, and purples. On top of that, I turn on my playlist, Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of The Flowers,” and “Sleeping Beauty” mingling with the dancing breeze.
I even lower the fence between me and the street. Put up a sign. WELCOME TO NICK’S ABODE. Some smile. Others stare, faces contorted into the darkest disgust. But I try to block those images.
And I repaint my walls, the sunshine yellow returning with each swish of the brush, with each barren space covered, spaces where my fists once landed, along with bottles of wine. This was all in the past, after another breakup. I paint inside, in the spaces between kitchen and living room, arches and curves joining and blending. The drywall is covered up too, another post-breakup incident also involving fists.
Some neighbors say the flowers disrupt the simplistic neighborhood scheme; the walls are too psychedelic. Could I just reconsider? Pare things back? Just a little, they say. Not a big deal, as though those four words deflate the annoyance within them, annoyance visible in stretched smiles, arched eyebrows, tapped toes on concrete.
Friends say the house looks like a freakshow. Cut down on the zigzagging lines, they suggest, while they text away, tell me they can’t stay long, they have an appointment in X minutes. Time is too short; they say with a little laugh.
Sometimes, I come close to uprooting a flower, then another, a hand poised over stems. I imagine the easy smile of approval, the motion of waves and smiles resumed. But the thought of uprooting and destruction frightens me, growth and movement stopped. A life snuffed.
I wonder what the world around me carries in its homes, what their neat lawns conceal. Broken down coffee tables, relegated to one weekend and then another, never to be fulfilled? Clocks whose batteries and lives long expired? I think of the lives they’ve split, the bills, the rooms, even the times for happiness and seriousness. This lawn must end here. This garden must not start here. I think of these lines they store; wonder how they can even breathe.
So, I refuse their requests with a nod. Thank them. Bid them well, although invectives still tingle on my tongue, waiting to leap. But I don’t let them. They’d split and birth new invectives and invectives of invectives of invectives.
On I go, assembling, while people suggest, and news always snakes in. Of course, I always miss something. A line, a wall, a space. Something’s always bare, separated from the rest. But I keep coming back, my brush swishing, hands strengthening and smile unfurling with each piece sliding into place.