You write a body of work that begins with because. Not excuses, not quite, but meticulously constructed holding patterns; drafts that whisper basically, revisions that scream yes, labyrinthine letters, messages forwarded at all hours of the night, each boasting a seven-letter constraint rehearsing every possibility, emitting no light. You write a history, a sacred text to an us understood, prefaced always with a scrawled because. Permanent, inked in vantablack, an alphabet absorbing the what we never were and the what we could have been and performing a ritual, a coded language, an alchemical transformation: behold the non-existent something, watch it become a dissipating heat, a spectacular noise.
Because this puncture is who you are. Because what you are struggling to mend is what needs to be done. Because you left her before and when you did you felt a presence in every room; a phantom, a smell like a yellowing wedding dress, a sick heaviness settling in parts of you accustomed to going unfelt. Because you cannot leave her now, my goodness, you cannot leave her now. Because you owe this swell to someone else, to her, to them, or because when you reach for her hand you take a guilty comfort in knowing someone remains indebted to you, that you are desired. Because otherwise you’re not sure, you cannot know. Because your decisions were commitments, and you have been told promises are meant to be kept, that nodding through the slow rhythms of decay is what makes someone good. Because you want so desperately to be decent, to be steady. Because she is not perfect, and my god, neither am I, and Jesus Christ, you’ve made your feelings on him so clear, and, to be fair, no one really is, you write – and I imagine a shrug when I read all of this – because you hate to use clichés, and imperfection should go without saying.
Yet here are articles masked as conjunctions, definite and not connections, not associative, not metaphor, not stand-in. You write a body of work that begins with because only to drape it loosely across my shoulders, the distance between us a whole earth away. Maybe I step from it, maybe you turn brittle when I do. Maybe I stretch each sentence carefully into walls, make a house from desiccation. Maybe I peel back words, make trouble, erase each device, each fiction until what remains scrapes out a truth, a revealing, my dearest, that we are a motion sickness. Maybe I open my mouth, breathe out dark smoke, look to you and say, here it comes. Here it comes. Here it comes.
Jessica Berger is a Chicago-based fiction writer as well as an editor with Grimoire and the newly launched Always Crashing Magazine. Her work has been featured in Ninth Letter, Pank, Barrelhouse, trnsfr, Gamut, The Spectacle, Maudlin House, Moonsick, Midwestern Gothic, and elsewhere.