War in the Time of Love

By Michael McInnis

She told him she liked swimming with him.

Those fat old Russians, she said, they’re all over the lane and always rubbing up against me.

The Russian men in the pool are not headhunters, but the Chinese men share mysteries with the other swimmers as if they are all diving for copies of Mao’s Little Red Book.

The Chinese characters inked on her side told him less than the way she swam, training for an open water competition.

She high-fived him after he swam a lap of butterfly and thanked him for his military service.

He didn’t want to be thanked. He wanted a kiss, a grilled cheese sandwich, a glass of iced tea with no lemon or sugar. He wanted to touch her the way the pool touched her.

She does not believe in divine retribution, paranormal activity or seismic disturbances. She wants to taste the ocean washing away the continent, to hear the coda clicks of a sperm whale.

At night, in the city, she searches the sky for the shoulder of Orion, but only sees his belt.

The Seven Sisters remains an erased smudge of white chalk. If she dove with them, the whales could see the stars in her eyes.

Later that summer, when the sky was buttered blue, hot and sticky and her tongue tasted like iced coffee, she told him tarot cards were never wrong.

She said, hanging his old dog tag around her neck, that scratch tickets and package stores turned her vegan.

He said, I don’t eat meat, except I still like seafood and eggs and yoghurt. What could I serve you for breakfast that wouldn’t make you sore at me? Are nuts and dry granola enough?


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