Fiction · 03/24/2021

Moon Thief

It is a cold night and Olivia has left me. I would attempt telling you about it, but the empty corners of my room have more to say. I’m too busy falling apart.

What can I say? It is a cold night, Olivia has left me, I am falling apart. What do you want me to say? That I have lied? That the night is humid? That I chased Olivia away? That I’ve been falling apart for a long time?

Okay. Here’s the truth: the night is humid and my armpits are moist with sweat. My eyes are moist with tears because I have chased Olivia away, because I’ve been too busy falling apart.

+

Once, I sang to Olivia: “There’s nothing I won’t do but steal the moon.” She said, why not? I said it’s impossible. She said, what if I want the moon? I said, what for? She shrugged. I laughed, she laughed, but I continued to think about it.

That night, I stood outside with a bowl of water in my hands. Olivia, I called out to her, come, I’ve captured the moon for you! She came outside in my t-shirt, eating a cookie. Look, I said, I’ve captured the moon in this bowl. We both looked in the bowl, careful not to obstruct the reflection of the moon, on the water. Later, she kissed me, in bed. She had traced a path with her tongue from between my breasts to between my thighs. By morning, the moon escaping its liquid jail, I promised to do whatever she wanted.

+

Now you know. I told Olivia I’d do anything for her, yet she left.

Since she left, all I’ve done is think. The pages of my mind are filled with an endless epilogue — I don’t want this story to come to a stop. With everything in me, I continue to prolong the afterthought, till it becomes a thought in its own right, spilling out more thoughts until I can think no more. This story has become a monologue, but it is a story, still, and I shall drive it forward by sheer will.

I captured the moon [in a bowl] for Olivia, yet she left.

So, I have done some thinking. Olivia may have left because she realized that love is not in the promise but in the doing. It is never as easy as holding a bowl of water to the moon and pretending the reflection is the real thing.

Indeed the pretence is over. At least for Olivia. From the moment we met, we had sidestepped my trauma. Ignoring it even when it hit us in the face, when it knocked the breath out of us. Panting, we continued the crazed dance of dodge, remaining forever in denial. Till Olivia said stop. Now I’m dancing on my own.

Her ghost still lingers on the dance floor. Traces of our dance together appear in corners to haunt me like errant slivers of moonlight.

+

It is difficult to decide which was worse — when I retreated into myself and held a stony silence, or the times I lashed out, deliberately hurting her. Days could go by but we always made up, usually by fucking it away, moaning aggressive apologies and making hasty promises. I’ve said a lot of things in the heat of sex, I realize.

The very first time I said to her, I love you, we were sweetly tangled up. Her mouth was on my neck, my hands in her hair. Between salivary kisses, the words fell out of my mouth. Immediately, I felt exposed. The words lay tender between us. I knew she had heard but she continued outlining my shoulder with kisses, her tongue dipping into the shallow bowl of my collarbone.

It wasn’t until after that she looked at me, glistening with sweat, with such vulnerability. It shook me out of my shame. I realized how her movements had changed after I said the words, what every touch had spelled out. I realized the meaning they carried. I recognized the adoration in her caress, her gaze — how it said: same here, same here.

She didn’t say the words back, but she didn’t have to. My body throbbed from her violent declaration. Words could never have done that.

+

Olivia, Olivia, Olivia.

The words following those I sang to her go: “But nothing made you want me better.” The singer said she’ll do anything, besides stealing the moon, which I did, but her declaration — and perhaps, effort — did not result in an increase of her lover’s affection.

I told Olivia I’d do anything for her, so Olivia said stop. But I continued the dance because if I don’t dance what can I do? What can I do but disintegrate faster than I already am? I said Olivia don’t stop, dance with me. I reached for her hand but she was already standing on the other side.

+

When I said I’d do anything for her, I hadn’t imagined she’d ask me to call up the specters of my past. I assumed there was an unspoken agreement to never ask that of me, to simply dance around it. Our last days together grew increasingly turbulent, me, increasingly hysterical: Olivia, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I won’t!

She didn’t understand that I’d have to cut myself open. It would have been the last thing I gave.

+

At this moment, it is easy to draw a comparison between our relationship and the night I captured the moon. After all, I’ve been searching for the metaphors encrypted in the night, fishing for answers in the moonlit waters of memory. I have tried to unravel the mechanics of the subconscious.

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Just as we were careful to not obstruct the moon’s reflection on the water, so did we cultivate a choreographed caution, lest the shadows of trauma obstruct the light of love. It is simple to pretend the moon is in the bowl, but it isn’t easy to maintain the act. Once the water ripples and the ripples are acknowledged, it’s over.

The water rippled. Olivia said stop. It’s over.

I am seated outside, a bowl of water between my thighs. Tonight the moon is showing off, voluptuous in its fullness. Sometimes the moon takes on the appearance of a face. It is one of those nights. It looks back at me as I look at it in the water, an ironic smile on its face. I stir the water but it soon settles. So I put both hands into the bowl. I feel its mass in my palms and yank it out of the water.

The world plunges into darkness but why aren’t my hands full of light? Here is the moon, downsized so I can hold it in my hands, yet it is heavy. I can barely see, but its surface is rough. Then I remember — the moon, without the sun, is only a rock.

I am only a rock, Olivia, and I am falling apart.

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Adeyosola Adeniran just completed her undergraduate studies. She likes to write about yearning. She’s learning new things about solitude.