Rejection Letters

Grocery List

“Linger” – The Cranberries

Lately, you run errands, anything to get out of the house. You are wandering through the supermarket. The lights are too bright. The wheel on the cart wobbles, turns and skids like an abandoned lover on the dance floor. Your wife texts you, Pick up cheese and chicken. I’ll make your favorite enchiladas. Heart emoji. A sparrow darts and dives over the freezer section. You wonder if it’s happy.

“Truly Madly Deeply” – Savage Garden

You hum along, shake rattle and roll past the seafood counter, somewhat concerned that you know the words to every background song. Your girlfriend sends you a picture. She’s wearing the black camisole and underwear that she wore the first time you met. You touch the screen trying to reveal what you can’t see. The cart veers towards a display of gluten-free chips. You stutter-step thinking about her hair, autumn falling over you. She looks like spring, a field of wildflowers, tastes like honeysuckle.  She smells like first snow and bonfires. When she explodes, she lights you up like July. You feel the flicker and crackle under your skin. The sparrow whizzes by your ear and whistles.

“Torn” – Natalie Imbruglia

Thinking about desire, you reach for a bag of shredded cheese. You’ve worn queerness as a badge of honor, a license to blur lines. Now you recognize that you are probably the same as anyone else with the rules defined, censored, minimized and sanitized by your community. You stare at the ice cream. Women don’t crave like men. When did you buy into this? Deny hunger? You choose Chunky Monkey. Your wife prefers vanilla. What you want is not immaculate. It’s dirty.

“Push” – Matchbox Twenty

In the produce aisle you think about your wedding day. You were ambivalent. It was a practical decision, nothing more. Until the tears came and you choked out your vows. You meant every word. You were surprised by the sentimentality and validation you felt in the legality. You finally got the honeymoon phase that had passed you by. You two never had that I can’t keep my hands off of you beginning. It was awkward. Along with the arguments over work schedules, cleaning the bathroom, where to eat and the dog, it was sex– your insistence and her indifference. You wanted to want her and to be wanted. Resentment built up like plaque, heart disease. You did get a grown-up relationship, comfortable companionship and stability. You settled down. You felt settled for. You withdrew into a familiar adolescent shame, feeling filthy for craving heat that strips you bare, feared you’d go blind in the want of it. You rub rosemary between your thumb and forefinger and hold it under your nose wondering if your promises are a three-minute song. You twist the band up your finger, rings of history indented in the skin. The weight of commitment has bound you to a Sisyphean shove.

“Slide” – Goo Goo Dolls

You shimmy past Starbucks, hear the hiss of the espresso machine and breathe in the aroma. Order a triple shot, tap on the counter and move your hips. You resist the urge to dance, to take off your shoes and slide across the floor. When was the last time you danced? When was the last time your wife made enchiladas?  The sparrow drops between rafters. Your pocket vibrates. I miss you and a sad face, your girlfriend again. She lives in a different town. You hate the distance. Like the northern lights, the brushstrokes of its colors obscure the borders of longing. You need to be in it, to spend time where it isn’t blurred by the want of what you can’t have.

“All I Want” – Toad the Wet Sprocket

The cart clanks towards the deli for rotisserie chicken. Your phone buzzes. We need paper towels. The dog got mud all over the floor. WTF!  It was only a matter of time before she was angry and disappointed again. Every year you’ve wished for the edges on both of you to wear away so you’d fit together. Initially, you were attracted to her sweetness, and the way her shirt fell off of her shoulder. Did you make her bitter? She’s a good person. Better than you.

“Tubthumping” – Chumbawamba

The sparrow circles over the wine section. You take it as a sign and inspect the label on a Riesling. You have an inclination for indulgence, for just one more. You put it back on the shelf. The cart resists your shove then gives way with a squeal. Fuck it. You turn back, seize the bottle and set it in the basket.

“Don’t Speak” – No Doubt

You know you are going to leave your wife. She feels like a jacket that you’ve outgrown, too tight. You need to breathe. She would never disrespect you or hurt you. Not this way. You are the asshole. You grab hemorrhoid ointment and ibuprofen.

“Everyday Is A Winding Road” – Sheryl Crow

You hear a thump – the sparrow has flown into the doors. It’s twitching on the floor. A tabloid in the checkout line shouts Ellen and Portia: The Untold Truth. Your girlfriend messages, I want you. Another photo. The promise of what’s to come. She is too far away for you to believe that she can deliver but you believe it anyway. You answer, I just moaned in the express lane. You stare at the dots waiting for her reply.

“But Anyway” – Blues Traveler

Pulling into your driveway, you challenge yourself to take all the bags in one trip. You walk through the door, tilting from the weight. The dog jumps up, pushes you back and wags her tail. She sniffs your shoe. A feather is stuck on the toecap. Your wife asks, Did you call the sprinkler guy? You nod, remembering that the restaurant down the street makes good enchiladas.

***

Erin Cork lives in Missoula, MT. She writes and hikes in the mornings with her two rescue mutts. She works the swing shift as a train dispatcher. She is a music nerd, drinks too much coffee and wears trucker hats. She identifies as queer. Her recent work can be found or is forthcoming in Bending Genres, X-R-A-Y Lit, Memoir MixTapes, Hobart Pulp, Pussy Magic, MITA and Homology Lit. She was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Emerging Fiction Writers contest.
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