Dear Lauren: A Dismantling

by Laurence Ross

Day 1Dear Lauren,

You are talking to me as I am writing this and yet you do not know that I am writing this. You know that I am writing, certainly, but you do not know that I am writing this, this being a letter to you that you will not read and that I will not read to you. This house, our house, will not be ours much longer, and this saddens me. I will attempt to relish all of the nuances of our collective domesticity until we part in one week’s time—you back to the East coast while I remain behind, here, though I hope to have nothing in common with a sock left under the bed. (You have a sock stuck in the spokes of the bicycle in the laundry room, do you know that? It has been there for months, and yet I have not mentioned it. I have said nothing….) But for now, for now we are together, or rather, in close proximity to each other. And you are drinking water and I am drinking coffee. And soup is simmering on the stove and laundry tumbles in the dryer. And outside it is raining and inside the ceiling fan turns over your head, your head which is over your book.

Dear Lauren,

I have used yet another of your Vanity Fairs to kill a cockroach. I will clean up the mess later. I like to put distance between the death and the moment when I wad up paper towels. This distance is like digestion, a necessary part of the process. It is a process we have enacted many times—the killing of a cockroach. It is a process that soon you will no longer be a part of (though, in truth, your part in this process is usually one of audience, of the looker-on, or perhaps, on occasion, as spotter, aside from the time when my arm was in a cast, my tendon severed, and I was vomiting and you utilized a large boot). This process of killing the cockroach is one which I will continue after you are gone.

Day 2

Dear Lauren,

You are in your bedroom with the door closed, moving pieces of your hair around and listening to talk radio, which I can hear through the wall. I just went into the bathroom and noticed that, as usual, the floor is wet. Wetter than after my own showers. I am not sure of the reason for this discrepancy in wetness, but I imagine that I stand on the bathmat for a longer period of time than you do. I imagine that this prolonged standing is why I leave less water on the floor of the bathroom, though I cannot be sure. There was something else in the bathroom I noticed—a red flower on the toilet tank that I did not notice yesterday. It rested near the blue turtle, whose shell I am fairly certain can be removed, whose shell is a cavity—a cavity (should it exist) that contains what? I do not know. But this is the second time today I have noticed your plastic flowers, the ones you like to pin to your hair after you are done moving the pieces around. This red one, the one that currently rests on the toilet tank, is clearly plastic with no attempt at verisimilitude. This morning, however, as I went to place my water glass on the coffee table, I moved aside a twin set of daisies (daisies?), which, though they are plastic, make some gesture at what is real. The daisy petals are pliable. The center of each flower head speckled yellow. The green stem. I think, in the end, it is the green stem that gives them away, that concedes their illusion. Have you been increasing the frequency with which you wear plastic flowers in your hair because you have been reading Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers? I am not sure. I do know that this book is about prisons and masturbation, and I do not know how prominently flowers are featured. I would not expect to find flowers in prison. Though I would not expect to find flowers in windowless bathrooms either.

Dear Lauren,

You are on your way to the liquor store where you will buy gin. I will also be drinking gin this evening, though we will be drinking our gins separately. You will buy Hendricks, which smells most strongly of flowers—it seems impossible to leave these days alone, without themes—and I will drink Gordon’s. We seem united this evening only by the juniper berry. I do not know exactly where you will be, and I do not know exactly where I will be. The only certainty here is the gin itself, and our drinking of it. I love the name of that berry: juniper. Almost like a planet, a celestial body, an integral part of our universe.

Day 3

Dear Lauren,

You are sleeping. Or at least trying to sleep, though you are no good at napping. You are also listening to talk radio, which I find to be no lullaby. It is dark inside our house today, yet we have not turned on the lights, kitchen aside. Oh yes, and the windowless bathroom. The bathmat is wetter today than yesterday. It is not drying. The bathtub fills with water faster than it can drain. This seems a depressing metaphor, all of this. I have called our landlord to fix the bathtub, though he rarely understands my messages. Soon we will be separating, and I will not know if you are napping or not. And you will not know if I am napping or not.

Day 4

Dear Lauren,

It is very late in the day and I am eating a bowl of cereal. I have a headache, which I told you about as I wandered into the kitchen for a glass of water and a vitamin. Much has changed since I fell asleep on the couch and then dragged myself to bed. All of your books have been removed from the bookshelves and are now packed in boxes and the boxes are stacked in leaning columns. This is the point of no turning back, of never being whole again. Also, there is one less mango on the counter.

Dear Lauren,

You have just given me a pile of stationary and envelopes, which you claim are not floral enough for your aesthetic. You were going to throw all of those potential letters in the trash if I did not take them. I took them, though I am not sure I will write letters on that stationary either.

Day 5

Day 6

Dear Lauren,

You are in your room pushing your hair around and you are distressed, despite the fact that the pieces of your hair are staying in their ideal places. What does it mean to have good hair on a bad day? I have attempted to give advice, I am giving you advice right now, though I suspect what I am saying is not so much advice as an offering of alternative perspectives which are more or less useless to your distress. The best I can do is to help you craft a sentence. And neither of us can know how our sentences will be taken.

Dear Lauren,

While I was in the shower, you disappeared. A bottle of gin is missing off of our shelves as well. I hope this convergence is positive. But I know that you did not eat dinner—or, rather, that for dinner you had a power bar and a glass of juice. You left a tomato on the table that I think you intended to eat. Whether you forgot about it or simply decided to leave it there, I have returned it to the fruit bowl. There is little order to our house now, my things in boxes, some of your things already mailed states away, and I thought to preserve even a little bit of order seemed best. I just collected all of my stray pens that were strewn around the house. I found a giant eraser and, with my stack of library books, erased a large quantity of my penciled marginalia. So many metaphors. This is why I do not allow myself to write poetry. I would just talk about things disappearing and there is no humor to be found there.

Dear Lauren,

You are still not here. Two days ago, you found the sock stuck in the spokes of the bicycle wheel. You noted its hardness. You removed the sock. I do not know whether you rewashed it or not.

Day 7

Dear Lauren,

Once again, you are not here and I do not know where you are. Though the difference is this is the final time this will happen—me sitting in our space, me wondering and not knowing when the front door will be unlocked. The difference is that tomorrow I will leave and we will no longer live together. I am packing up the kitchen. I just washed the teacups for the final time. Of course there is something sad about teacups, even when they are not broken. The tragedy of the teacup—the quintessential literary euphemism for domestic realism. I can never remember whether it was Henry James who said the thing about the teacup tragedy or whether it was some other person talking about James’s work as teacup tragedy, but either way, teacups must forever bear this metaphoric weight. I also packed away all of my favorite gin glasses. Now I am drinking out of a jar that I do not care what happens to. It will likely be left behind for the next renters of this space. This jar that I am drinking out of does not belong to you or to me and we found it in the kitchen cabinets when we moved in. There were many things left behind for us to either appropriate or not, and we will leave things behind that will either be appropriated or not. Tupperware. Paintings. A dusty bottle of champagne. There was that photograph of people who we thought we recognized but then realized we did not know them. I do not know where that photograph is. Perhaps it is still in this house. This house has so many cabinets and closets where things can be lost. A few days ago, I stumbled across a box full of my things that I forgot existed. There is more packing to do. I should not linger here. But I am lingering. I know that I will get little sleep tonight, that on the airplane tomorrow I will be exhausted and read articles about neckties in glossy magazines. I will refill this jar many times before I go to sleep in this house for the last time. First I need to locate a tool that may be lost. The tool is a small gold wrench and it is used to remove the legs from this table that I am currently writing on. I have not seen this tool since we first moved into this house. This tool has not resurfaced during all of this packing. I cannot find it in any box, and I have looked in many boxes. And this table is too large to remove with its legs attached. If I do not find the tool, I do not know how I will get the table out of the house. But surely I cannot leave this table behind. I care for this table too much, it cannot be left, and I do not want to think of it as being appropriated by another.

Author Bio
Laurence Ross lives and writes in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He lives in his new house, which is next door to his old house, the house in which he lived with Lauren. More >

7 thoughts on “Dear Lauren: A Dismantling

  1. pop says:

    I am reading between the lines and it sounds to me that you are still missing your roommate more than you thought. I know that feeling. Send me more!


  2. Tara says:

    larry, your words made me wish that i too could have shared a house with you and lauren! it would have been all tea cups and laughter, laughter and tea cups.


  3. corey says:

    How we overlook the details while time lingers on. Very subtle piece, sad and gives a lot of information about the intimacy of the couple and their problems without spelling it out – gives the reader a lot of credit.


  4. Elizabeth Hilts says:

    Corey, I love the point you make about giving the reader a lot of credit. It’s a fine line, isn’t it, between telling all and telling well; trusting the reader is essential in finding that balance.


  5. B.E. Wanamaker says:

    So poignant, mysterious. You leave the reader to asses the feelings and the relationship. Also appreciated your physical style – the numbered days, the nothingness of day five, some days so much there are two letters. Nice job.



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