It Leaves No Shadows
The rental house in Ohio where I’d existed for three years was this twisty, thin three-story. A nicer house than I was used to. Midwest cheap. Wedged right outside of the garage, a tiny, spidery closet housed past tenants’ brooms, rakes, ripped hoses. A flattened tire. We called the closet Peyton’s Place, named after a character in the television script we’d been writing together. Hap and I had routinely used the space to exchange script stuff, business stuff — script drafts, CDs to pair with scripts, other shows’ scripts, books — deposited in the closet for each other, often edged with some gifty detritus: a flower he’d picked, a bottle of beer from the batch he’d been working on at home, a shell from my beach vacation, once an empty Christmas stocking I’d stitched out of a blue velvet scarf, using the matchbox-sized sewing kit I’d snagged from a Louisville hotel where we’d twice stayed together. The stocking was jagged and lopsided, like something a four-year-old made. Like something his child could have made. During our two years, we’d used the trading post several times a month but had never run into each other. I forced myself not to go down and check it when I was home; I only looked when he instructed me to “see Peyton.” I did, however, latch the door in such a way that I could see, as I pulled up in my car every afternoon, if Peyton’s had been entered, the brief glance a habit I’d not been able to shake in the year since I paused us.
The day before I left Ohio, I kneeled on the abbreviated driveway in front of Peyton’s open door, a Sharpie in hand. I didn’t know how to say goodbye. Peyton Sanders had become our fictional friend, the earnest but acerbic hero, a mashup of me and Hap. Who our grown child might have become. I wondered if Hap now thought of Peyton as dead and gone, a human I’d aborted, or if Peyton was still living for him too.
It had taken me a few blank moments to recognize what to pen, and I steadied the door and started writing at the top of its inside, inking from memory the complicated, undulating lyrics to our show’s hypothetical, long-deliberated opening credits song, the song we’d looped 173 times in my bedroom one Saturday morning that turned into Saturday afternoon, a research meeting, we justified. As I scrawled, I didn’t worry about sizing, just trusted myself, and indeed the last line hit the bottom of the door, had to be squinched in, but it was all there. I glanced over the words, then stood, pushed the door shut, and left it unlatched.
Vallie Lynn Watson’s debut novel, A River So Long, was published by Luminis Books in 2012. Her Pushcart-nominated work appears in PANK, Frigg, Gargoyle, and other magazines. Watson received a PhD from the Center for Writers and teaches at UNC Wilmington.
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