by Joe Kapitan
I take all the things that I should never have said and I stand them on end, making a forest of sorts, dark and mazed, and in the middle I clear out some of the things I should never have said to create an opening, a glade, and in the center of that glade I take some of the things I shouldn’t have said and lay them flat, stacking them one on top of another to form walls (because those unfortunate words I said are mostly hard, heavy words that make excellent bricks), and some of those words are more like paragraphs; lengthy tirades that can span across walls, and soon I build a structure, a museum of things I should never have said.
In one room I pin my finer lies and gossips inside butterfly cases, spotlight them until their hidden agendas glow like neon. In another, I line the walls with mirrors, the kind of mirror a human face should be, the kind that says but enough about me, now tell me about you, and I vow to keep them clean even though I’ve never liked mirrors, they reflect too much.
I put these ill-begotten words to use and it makes me feel better, for a while, but in the lengthening shadows of late afternoon the museum feels empty and disheartening—so quiet that I hear the words whispering, reliving their first moments freed from my lips. This museum of mine is more like a mausoleum; it needs a beating heart, a glowing spark, so in front I plant a garden full of the loving, beautiful words I should have said instead, and it looks at every hour like undead hope ready to burst forth, just waiting for the right time, the right person. So I polish the mirrors, sweep up loose bits of insults off the floors, brew a pitcher of iced tea, put on a clean shirt and some Coltrane. I announce to all that my museum is open. I feel nauseous. I rehearse my lines. I wait.
No one comes.
I understand that many of them are busy with work, school, whatever they first happen to grasp at when the shock of hearing from me registers, and some pretend not to remember me and a handful wish that this museum would fall on me like my words once fell on them. I wonder now if any of them will come. Why trust the building when you can’t trust the architect? What was I thinking? Who builds a monument to their faults?
In an hour, I level my museum. I burn the broken curses to ash.
The garden I leave untouched, for you. If you change your mind and come, perhaps after I’m gone, understand this—that although I don’t have a father’s skill to love, I have a human’s capacity. I recognize beauty when I see it—from afar, where I can do less harm.
Joe Kapitan writes from a glacial ridge line south of Cleveland. His short fiction and creative non-fiction have appeared in many excellent venues both online and in print. His chapbook won a contest and was published in 2013. His short fiction collection is a boomerang child and his novel-in-progress is being difficult.