He wants to know why I’m so bothered by such a small incidental thing. Doesn’t understand the ratcheting wind in my nerves has been so slow, so steady, so long in the build up that any reason is good enough to make me snap.
I am very good at sweating the small thing, like watermarks on a kitchen counter that are really tea stains from what must have been the teabag chucking Olympics because the kettle is the other end of the room, as are the mug, and the tea caddies, and oh yes, the sugar! In fact the milk is the only thing not that end, unless you were the one doing the brews in which case the milk is also that end because heavens forbid it should live in the fridge where it might just survive to its use-by instead of souring like my expression whenever I come downstairs to find dishwasher empty! but no space to move for dirty plates, cups, bowls, all stacked smallest to largest in cracked crockery Jenga challenge number sixty, guess it’s time to see what’s on sale in the supermarket kitchen department.
There are no hooks or bait. The skill is standing barefoot when the ice water runs across your toes and the feeling goes thick in your fingers waiting for the hum in the current. You can be there for months, lock-kneed and bent into shapes you must learn yourself out of. Still the Poem Fish does not swim in those waters, or if it does you sense it slip smaller than a minnow through the splayed net of your hands, watch the words melt and rush away with the rest of the river current. Other days the Poem Fish arrive in shoals, thrash themselves over each other to leap into your hands. Those are the days you learn which Poem Fish to throw back to grow and which you should take a knife to, split open along the belly seam and spill onto the page. Some will turn before you cut, a dead thing dead before you thump its scaled head against the rocks, and filled with sand. Those are not Poem Fish, they will not fill you up.
She has the same look about her, or so it seems when she tilts her cheek just so and the tides shift, shrink in on themselves so ashamed by her disappointment. Uncanny, how similar she seems reflected beside me.