The one I love/In lieu of you

Jennifer Spruit

When I walk, I run my fingers along the sliver-rich fence or the mottled stucco walls. I pluck grasses and leaves and water weeds, stripping seeds and ripping green flesh. My fingers get lost in sand and dirt and gravel, sieving everything through splayed digits.  I bare my feet for asphalt and hot stone walkways, letting pebbles stab into my soles. I rub cotton and wool and the hair of children on my face to polish my skin with new essences. My scarf gets wet with slushy snow or foggy breath and I continue to wear it anyway, nibbling it with my lips.


Once I get inside, I touch counters and railings, seeking new grains. I scrape paint from old cupboards with my fingernails, feeling the prick of a splinter in my virgin under-nail skin. I push myself deep into chairs and couches, and jitterbug my legs against the undersides of desks and tables. My fingers drum on tabletops of heavily polyeurathaned wood and then circle the rims of ceramic bowls or crystal wine glasses. I balance hot plates and bowls on my lap, putting my fingers in soup and spaghetti to test its temperature. I squeeze pieces of fruit under the table, and stick and unstick honeyed fingers surreptitiously.


When I’m alone I make the bathwater as hot as possible, sliding in one inch at a time to savour my scalded skin. I lie awake in bed under a heap of blankets, running my wrists over the sloping groves in the headboard.  I roll into the wall, and fall asleep fingering the cracks in the wood. I get up early in a silent house just to walk on the cold wooden floor with naked feet. I drink tea slowly, letting it be bitter and warm all over my mouth.


Sam, it’s all because I wish I was touching you.



(An excerpt from  my novel , I Want To See Your Teeth)

Published in Branch Magazine: Issue One