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There is a crawl space in my lover’s house that his wife and children don’t know about. He likes to sing into it when he’s drunk and he’s only drunk when he’s with me. Good acoustics, he says. He’ll never admit it, but a part of him wants to be a singer. He wants to be someone of importance, someone who gets a lot of attention. That’s why he’s with me. I don’t mind being used. If you think I should mind, then you’ve never been in love. Not like this.

His wife and kids know about me because my lover is a heavy drinker and heavy drinkers say stupid things. That my secret life is hardly a secret means that this crawl space with its jutting rafters and sloping roof is more mysterious than I am. I hate this most of all. Being a mystery is a very small comfort to the woman who always comes second.

The crawl space is musty and large enough to fit the both of us. The shape of it makes no sense like the rest of his house, a sign of bad construction plans. He found it because he is curious and anxious, the type of person who has to know all corners, all ambiguities. I have to put too much stock in the fact that he showed it to me and no one else. My lover doesn’t like to speak of love. It makes him terribly uncomfortable.

We string up Christmas lights around the rafters. We make love in there, because I too am a heavy drinker. When he is rough, he shakes up the dust. I love the color of dust in the lights. Moving like this gives me deep scratches on my lower back, splinters too. It still amazes me that I find them only after I leave, only after his absence sinks in.

The crawl space is the best part of the house. The rest of it is infested with memories that will never be mine. It’s amazing how my body opens for him in a place so cold and dark. I have yet to find a place where my body doesn’t open for him, and only him. If I can find that place, or if I can find another soul to open for, then maybe I can find peace. But there is no peace here. Not in this crawl space in the center of his house, behind the shelves in a closet next to his bathroom.

When he kneels over me and runs his flashlight over my body, I can feel my skin glow from the inside. That glow, it comes from somewhere deep in my stomach. This, this is what he does to me.

When his wife comes home early, he hides me in there, in the crawl space. He slides one limb out of the hole at a time and emerges into the light, a new man. He closes the door behind him and puts the shelves back up. I can hear the towels being put back into place with muffled thumps. Everything is where it should be.

I hear them say hello. It is so dark, I see only their voices dancing around each other, a gentle performance.

Is she here?

No one is here. Only us.

image: Aaron Burch