Sarah has her grandfather’s carpenter’s rule out, an old yardstick-looking thing with the brass hinges and wooden rulers all attached, like an accordian.
She has it extended four rulers. Thirty-three inches total.
The object of her exploration with the rule is a smush on the wall above the fireplace. Something organic. There’s definitely a tail protruding from a blob, which has a greenish-blue sheen - almost like if you superimposed algae onto an oil slick and swirled it. We have no idea how it got there, or how it came to be squished.
Sarah retreats to the couch and sits crossed-legged in a defiant pout. She’s waving the carpenter’s rule in a circle like a wand. I carefully slide my head into her lap, throw my legs over the couch arm and disarm her from the rule. I am quiet and careful to fold it back together, and wipe the poke-end in the cuff of my Levis. I slide the rule under the couch for a later retrieval and relocation to the toolbox.
“What do you think it is - was?”
“I dunno. Bug of some kind.”
We retreat into silence. A space we’ve come to occupy with relative frequency.
She puts her palms on my temples, then rakes the hair from my eyes with her fingers. With an index finger, she traces the bridge of my nose, my cheekbones, my lips. She smiles as she does this; I reach out, put my hands on her ribcage and give a gentle squeeze. She sighs.
She’s leans in for a kiss when we hear something. Wet, like a sploosh combined with a plop. Our thing has detached itself and now rests on the stone fireplace mantel.
“I’ll get some paper towels.”
She gently pulls my head back into her lap and continues to trace her finger across my features. I close my eyes.
“When I said we never talk anymore, I didn’t mean it to come out as an accusation or anything.”
“We used to talk about everything - I mean, I know it was new and we were getting to know each-other, but I miss you. I miss just hearing what you have to say. That’s why I ask so many questions. That’s why I ask you every morning about what I’m wearing, it’s not that I’m confused or anything. I want your opinion.”
I open my eyes. I look into hers. And I smile. She fills the dimple in my cheek with her finger.
There’s a comfort between us. Whether that comes with age or proximity, I couldn’t say. I know she doesn’t enjoy it. I can’t say I enjoy it either.
It just is.