Petrach is humming. It is something grand—a courtship for those not sleeping. He has tried sleeping. It does not work.

Now he is standing at his mirror, blurry in his 2 am reflection. It is cold, the fire in the living room doesn’t reach the bathroom tile, and he is sure that it is snowing outside. He runs a bath and continues his song.

He can see how the dance to this would go: he would sweep across the room and there she would be. His girl, his secret. Dressed in something old, something he would not recognize. She would look tired; they would match. They never did that. Match. It seemed too perfect for them. In this dance, though, they would be perfect. She would greet him, unashamed, and he would bow. “Pearl,” he would say. He would have every step planned, wound up in him, ready. They would dance.

She would be taller than him—she always was taller than him. She would guide him as he tripped on his own feet and on hers. He would catch the hem of her dress with his shoes and she would not notice. Would not care. He would love her, and she would love that he did.

He finishes his song and lowers himself into the tub. The water is cold. He can feel this inching into his chest and the backs of his knees, into his skin, into his bones. It makes its way into his head, his pulse thick in his ears. A drunken protest. Petrach starts a new song, this one faster. He has heard this one before—twice, he believes—and is re-writing it from memory. Composing another man’s symphony under his breath. He slips sometimes, on the low notes, the ones he is not sure of.

This dance would be full of itself and tireless, the worst sort. With an arm wrapped around her waist, tight like gauze and with the same purpose, Petrach would pull her close to him. This, she would think, is what it means to be loved. Desired. He would guide her now, graceless, across the room. Twirling her, dipping her, pushing her away and then pulling her back again. Blind, confident, and stumbling. She would not say anything about this—would not know there was anything to say—and he would trip over his feet again.

“Pearl,” he would say. And that would be enough.

Zetetic separator

—Madeline Dixon is a creative writing student in Connecticut. In both her prose and her poetry, she writes into various circumstances and subject matters, mostly dealing with our relationships with others and how they define us as people. She plans to publish a collection of poems in the coming future.

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