There’s a dead Monarch in a mason jar full of rainwater outside, and he asks me if it had drowned, if it had flown in and just couldn’t find its way back out. And when he asks this, he is walking around my patio like he can’t decide whether or not to come in. And I can’t decide either, whether or not I want him there, tell him it was already dead when we found it but that we had wanted to keep it, think of all the other dead I have kept, the brother’s initials tattooed near my spine, the last hug given by a friend in a Barnes and Noble, how too I keep that husband, like some echo, some faint flutter of wings, him, forever inside.
It’s been a week since I have seen the man, and he’s spent it texting me every day, multiple times per day. It does not make me like him more, this sudden and intense attention. I have always wanted instead the slow burn, the build of something over time, not that white hot heat, not that infatuation that sparks and goes out. Because when a man tells me he thinks of me all the time what he has always meant is for now, what he has always meant is until something better, and I do not want to be someone’s all the time, not when it doesn’t mean always.
On the patio, all my edges are showing, all those hard places in me, and I cannot be soft then like he wants me to be, think I used up the last bit of that in me weeks ago, on a couch in another conversation, on a chair at a table in another conversation, think these days I have more in me akin to the pile of broken branches my son has collected on the patio, all those sharp ends jutting every which way, than I do that butterfly floating in its small pool of water, its wings, such delicate and fragile things.
When, the following day, for the first time in a week, I do not hear from the man, I cannot say that I am surprised. I can’t give him anything he wants, some giddy infatuation for which I’ve never been built. Because there’s a dead Monarch in a mason jar full of rainwater and it’s there because I had wanted to keep it, long past its brief flitting through sunlight, long past the brightness of its wings, it’s there because I had wanted to keep it, like that brother, like that friend, like that husband rattling around inside, like maybe some other man too, not just all the time for now. I had, instead, just wanted to keep them.