Rigorous
Volume Four, Issue 4



Distance

Randy William Santiago

She says it’s the move making things difficult but it’s always been this way. Full time job getting ellipses to surf my screen. Full time job watching them surf. Between that and my actual gig, wiping and setting tables for downtowners outta towners and itdontmatterwhereimfromgivemeafuckingtablers, I’ve been dead. Difficult convincing yourself to tug along when your lover is so far ahead or behind. Ahead or behind but never here cause they can’t be, even when they are. She’s in Madrid and I’m in Chicago. Which I guess leaves me behind.

Feels that way when I hit her up at 1437 with: hey cutie. how’s your day been? Only to get a response at 0052: Sorry, I was at dinner and my phone died. Went to sleep once I got home.

All I can do is feign indifference, like a few of her words won’t set my day onto a launch pad and blast it onto the moon, past it, into another galaxy, possibly another universe. One where we’re planted on the same soil, dining at the same table, sipping from the same tap, sobbing in the same room, fucking on the same bed.

It’s been aight, I said, been thinking bout you. A sweaty bottle filled the wells of my eyes as I typed. Don’t play like you ain’t been there before. Oh, you haven’t? I don’t envy you for it. Rather sob over a love lost than one never had. Though this one ain’t lost, just on temporary hold I suppose.

Wish I could hold her right now, instead of this bottle. Slippery, evading my fingers. Wish I could slide my fingers between her. You know where. Wish I could enter the forest of her world. You been there. Not hers but somebody’s I’m sure. Chopped down the stems and branches, but left the trees. Admired their history and beauty. Planted seeds of your own until the branches regrew, differently no doubt if you did what you’re supposed to.

Think I am. Say things to make her smile, text her some of the letters I write, stroke myself on camera whenever she asks me to. Branches should be sprouting soon. Bright leaves like in October when the wind chills and the sun don’t shine like it used to. Leaves are bright though, at least for a few weeks.

Until the winds pick up and the trees get cold and to maintain themselves they shed some layers and the once beautifully majestic fur becomes dander and you’re left coughing and sneezing cause it ain’t the same no more. Doctor diagnosed me asthmatic, though I only feel that tight scratchiness when a response don’t come soon enough. When it comes within the hour my lungs feel like blimps, floating away from me; but when it don’t… well, I explained that already.

Don’t tell her none of this. Can’t risk our relationship knockin’ on any doors prematurely, you feel? Used to knock on her door often, typically after sunset, which is late in Madrid once spring comes around and blows the dead leaves aside to make room for their livelier cousins. Spring in Madrid is like summer elsewhere. Patios full, cerezas blooming, sun tanning you a nice bronze or black depending how far along nature set you. Pool’s open then so we’d go to the Lago metro, on line 10, and sip something cold while the sun cooked us. Everyone with their tightest Speedos and their tits out but I only looked at hers, tiny buds of her nipples flushed pink by the brush of her curls. The two of us brushed up against each other in passing, sustaining the belief that no one knew we’d become one in the men’s locker room.

Come summer, the sun don’t set til 2030. Even then its glow trickles down the purple sky like diluted blood toward the horizon. Paint on a wet canvas.

We were once a wet canvas, catching everything in the breeze. But that was before the sun fully rose, allowing for something to stick before the final droplets descended into the gutters. Don’t tell her I said that either, she don’t like to jog through the past cause you get stuck that way. Sprinting past helps. Ain’t nothing a good stomping can’t fix. Feel like stomping out my phone whenever she texts and it freezes.

She just texted, I know she did. Notification came in and, even though the contents are hidden, I know it’s her. It’s past midnight out here so she’s just waking. If the phone takes too long to load, I restart it. Ain’t no use wasting time in deliberation when ain’t much available from the get.

When it opened up to “hey you”, my heart fluttered. I forgot about the freezing and loneliness and dead leaves and bloody canvases because my soul came to life again. Midway through typing a response, a video call notification took over my screen.

She was naked, pink nipples pinched between trembling fingers. They were stiff and so was I and I told her so. Panned the camera down to show her, flexed it a bit, the rocking motion similar to the sensation she’s felt inside her pussy, along her cervix. Claims she ain’t got a g-spot but I’ve discovered it, made a point of finding it the first time we hooked up. Ain’t even fuck, just kicked it a bit. She let me finger her before mounting and ultimately saying she don’t kick it with friends.

Even then I hit that button and set her off. Least I think I did. Think she’s hitting it now, her eyes are rolling.

 

I wake when she’s off work, catch her before her drinks with friends, which in Madrid means her entire day will be taken up and I’ll get a brief tired text before her lips tremble against the weight of her eyes and let out soft bouncy lullabies. Guess that’s alright except an occasional text wouldn’t hurt. A check in or an: I’ll be busy all night but would love to talk in the morning!

Says it’s too much to ask for with her schedule and all. With the classes and meetings and meetups with friends, it’s all too much to ask of her. So I don’t bother.

Past few months have been that way, I tell Justin and he says that’s how things were when he was with Lola. But that was before they got back together.

How are things now?

Honestly not much better, he sighs.

It’s tough, man, I say.

I don’t know what to do, man.

I never say any of this to her because she wouldn’t get it and what good would it do anyway? Better off chilling at my apartment, on the couch, cause that’s the only thing inside, that and my bed. An air mattress that will pop in two days, around 3 am, sending me into a fit of rage that will climax at my smashing a typewriter in the closet across from the washing machine. It isn’t my typewriter or my closet but none of that matters, really.

That or the gash on my foot that’ll prevent me from working the floor at least a week. Put in the office upstairs, customers won’t be tipping me and Abby’s plump juniper berry lips won’t intoxicate me. I’d never do anything with her, but a little flirting never hurt. She’s dating some scrub named Alonso who she can’t stop complaining about. Says everything revolves around him and it’s a mission getting him to consider her. Seems we’re in the same boat, except I know shared space would save my relationship. Hers is dying.

On the Belmont bus after work, I typically read or talk on my phone but it snowed today. Bus was wobbling down the street and traffic was slow and the snow that wasn’t being pummeled by reluctant trick-or-treaters was sparkling like a young sun against aged waves. It reminded me of her. The snow reminds me of your eyes, I texted her.

Wish we could roll in it together, guapo.

We still can.

I don’t see how.

You haven’t booked your flight yet.

Ellipses scrolled the screen initially, but now they’re gone. She’s visiting California for Christmas, but her mom wants her home sooner.

You know my mom wants me home a week early.

Having two days less won’t kill her.

I know.

It’ll have been 6 months.

I’ll have to see what the girls in New York think, she texted. They want me there for New Year’s.

So you can visit them but not me? That’s kinda fucked up.

My phone rang and her face appeared but I ignored it. I don’t want to go to this party without resolving this first, she texted.

I considered dragging things along so that she wouldn’t attend the party, or so that she would in disarray. Her mind would weigh so heavy that she’d have no choice but to dwell on her mistakes.

Then again, it was past midnight in Madrid, on Halloween. She’d have no choice but to go. Fun is imperative. I’d soon lose her and wake to ten thousand texts of varying emotions. Ranging from apologies to passive aggressive pushes for accountability. I can’t keep doing this, Alex, she might say.

Off the bus at the Belmont Blue Line, I walked down Kimball toward Milwaukee. Crossing on Diversey is always a shitshow and the snow amplifies it. Once across, I crossed the street and watched as the snow’s shimmer reflected onto the Logan Theatre sign, creating a spectacle that only I seemed to notice and appreciate.

What the fuck, man? someone bumped me and said. You’re blocking the sidewalk.

I considered going off on him. Imagined snatching him by the neck and beating him so bad he’d resort to laying in the newly developed ice mounds to ease the aftershocks of my assault. But instead, I breathed and watched the lightshow as it slowly ascended to the peak of the sign and collapsed to the ground anew.

My phone rang. The vibration startled me. Yea, I said.

I want to see Chicago, she said. Alex?

Yea.

I’m sorry about earlier. I want to see Chicago with you, she said and my heart fluttered between the lightshow like a butterfly at the dawn of spring.



Randy William Santiago: "I am an Afro-Puerto Rican writer from inner-city Chicago. In 2018, I graduated from Cornell College and moved to Madrid, Spain on a Fulbright Fellowship. My fiction and essays have been published in Prometheus Dreaming, Five South, The Blue Nib, Litro Magazine and are forthcoming in Lunch Ticket and Storm Cellar Quarterly. I currently host the literary podcast 'Literature in Color'."




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