“The Clockkeeper” by Rebeka Singer

I’m in love with an addict. He spends my money on booze and cigarettes and cocaine and tells me I deny him. He doesn’t know love. Maybe I don’t either. But he builds me up so high: “I didn’t know people like you existed,” hands clutching my waist as if about to lift me to the heavens. “Baby you’re brilliant,” he says, then calls me a baby and whines about the video game I never downloaded for him or the intrinsic properties of the world that my lack of intelligence forever disables me from understanding. “You’re not capable of change,” he says. He whines—wines and wines and wines.

When he’s not the leader, I’m drowning. When he wins the hand, I lose.

It’s Sunday, three days since court. We’re on a bus traveling home to Boston from New York City, where we visited our friends, but really just drank and fought about money and the sex we never have anymore. “It’s emotional,” he says. “It’s just not there.” He’s yelling at me, continuing a fight that began last night. “You’re a fucking child,” he says as he scolds me over and over and over again for not understanding the world, as he always punctuates it.

I may say, Stop, or defend myself, or rebel against him. But my words begin to separate from my brain—silly little letters floating in space, never to be strung together to make sentences that make sense. “Please, you’re drunk. Apeals, you re-run, duk!” Jumbled. Won’t make sense to him, no cents for liquor, and to me, just silly little lies I too often keep.

I thought it was all over after court, after the divorce hearing was dismissed and the tall, navy sheriff touched my shoulder and told me to keep my head up.

I couldn’t stop crying.

“Do you believe there is no chance of reconciling this marriage?”

That was the hardest question on the stand.

I gave them their answer. It would never be mine.

I went back to work that afternoon. Had I ever left? He had left. We had been co-workers once—once there was a marriage. I never really thought about what it was like to have him there, at the office, when I did have him there. To look up and smile at him and see in his ocean eyes how he adored me—and how that just wasn’t enough, and then how I broke his heart. But my therapist said that’s too much weight to put on myself, that I was solely responsible for a man’s heartbreak.


My head sits heavy, shadowing my wild heart—that heart, a deep sea fish that swims and dives and crashes and bursts into metal shards, glittering onyx eyes in a melting pool.

There was the marriage. Will’s face glowing as he watched me brave the ocean waves so many summers, my hair tangled in the wind. Memoires like old films, broken stills, disk skips in my head—

There we are at the office, drawing up business proposals, trying to expand the wealth of the company. You’re still there. I wonder how much I’ll miss you when you’re really gone: the day you leave, Will. We would build an empire, you’d say, and I’d roll my eyes but admire your ambition. Your dreams were safe to live in and so that’s where I nested.

But I grew bored. I went to graduate school. I returned to work, but never to you, Will. Now that business is an empty womb. A clock that doesn’t turn the time.

“Delete it,” Will says, leaning over my shoulder as I punch away at a spreadsheet that I don’t understand. I hear his voice but don’t look. “Delete it like you deleted me.” He lifts his palm from the back of my desk chair. Footsteps as he exits the office, but I don’t turn around.


I’m an addict—addicted to an addict.

On the bus, there is my voice and a familiar question, What happened since yesterday? Why does it always come to this? I can’t remember what it was like to be free in so long.

I had been free with Will. But then I discovered my darling addict sharing our art in academia and I believed in his darlingness. I was under the illusion of freedom with my soulful artist. But we were chained and bound since that first October night he held my married hand at The Whiskey Slot. He didn’t even buy me a drink. I was drunk already and he spun stories for me to bathe in, in my pliable academic brain that only university can cultivate.

I was scared.

But fear stopped and I succumbed to something unrecognizable buried inside me. “I just want to make you happy,” he’d say as he lowered his eyes over every inch of me. It was past midnight, and the TV cast light in his living room apartment, our own moon hung in the paint-chipped ceiling. I sat on the couch, loosely holding my glass, and he kneeled before me examining the flesh between my legs like he didn’t know what to take first. Liquor dripped down my thigh. And he took and he gave and I was happy.  And afterwards he just held me and I felt like peace—adrenaline and wine and synchrony. I hadn’t felt that with Will in so long. He packed me to his chest and my hand trembled over his beating heart—the clockkeeper.

And so time passed, and I grew bolder. But there was my Will—until there wasn’t. And alone before the world I barely understood, we couldn’t face it. I got scared and my addict, raging— A broken chair. Slapping little fists. Choking palms. Wrapped in bed, we tied each other down in suffocating sex that turned on us like April rain to beating sleet. And our touches were cold and painful and strained. “Why did you grab my neck so tight?”

His fingers that used to glide and soothe, now chaffed and stabbed.


On the bus, he sneaked the last swig from his six-pack. He looked destitute after that. He curled up beside me—curled in anger. I can still see his face, scrunched sweat and welts, before he buried it in his coat. His teeth bearing like a gritty little dog.

“Things are going to change now,” he said. “You think this is hell.”


We lie in bed. His things are packed downstairs—bags slouched against the door.

The dormer windows open to the Indian summer night. The air swirls through the bedroom and lies like a soft blanket over my skin.

“Goodnight to the shade of my heart, the bedeviling of my existence.” Will’s voice shivers. I’ve spent the last eight years stenciling his face in my imagination, smoothing my fingers over his moist skin so many nights. I can see his wet eyes in the darkness with my back turned to him. I can see it because it’s burned in my mind—forever, I imagine.

Tomorrow he will leave and we will enter a different stage of mourning. Each day has been different since the affair came to light. “I don’t want to be with you,” I moaned. “I don’t love you anymore,” I pleaded. “I will always love you,” I told him.

I feel his warmth beside me. My body thaws from the inside.


Earlier Sunday. There are no windows in the Brooklyn apartment we crashed at. Our friend is still asleep, or at least hiding in his bedroom. I’m lying on a lawn chair cushion laid across the carpet. I shiver, my childlike body in a bright blue tee shirt and underwear under a chenille throw.

“Get your sweet little ass up!” he barks, bloodshot eyes, beer-battered breath. Drunk and high at 8:30 in the morning. I sweep an arm over my eyes, lifeless things framed in my skull. Starvation screams through my body. I groan and turn into the pillow. My heart is a leaking faucet, pouring sour blood into my sour soulless chest. Then you remember:

His sweet ocean eyes. And he still whispers, “I forgive you.” I imagine saying, “I miss you so much—

“I was so so so wrong.”

Spine curled in shame, sallow skin; mineral tongue sticks to my sandy palate and phlegm crawls down my throat.

But I can’t get there. I just can’t get back there.


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