Love You To Pieces

Christine H. Chen

I found her in pieces discarded on the sidewalk: an old apothecary cabinet with blackened silver knobs, each bin a lost secret, a pile of shattered drawers that had once been used to put away delicate lingerie, a mannequin's head, chest-less arms. I made her whole again, cleaned every surface, and every nook with the most care one could expect from a carpenter like myself. Removed lint, stains, buffed, repainted, re-nailed, and layered her with the creamiest varnish, her body reconstructed with a hundred drawers ready to put our memories together. I gave her the mannequin's head, covered it with ebony flying hair, drew fleshy pink lips, and affixed her freshly waxed arms. I lathered her with my love, and she trembled alive. She smelled cedar and her laughter crisp like a Spring breeze.

I called her Annie, and she loved me back with all her might. She was curious of our human-made technology and was particularly fascinated with the smartphone. She wanted one grafted on her left palm and I obliged—we even named it pholm—so she could constantly be checking her texts and tapping back love notes to me. We were pholm-tethered while I was away from her, shaping chairs and stools from rugged wood at the furniture company. Besides binging on NetFilm, I was her sole occupation. She fretted when my replies took longer than a minute to appear on her screen.

There were other issues between us, like all couples do. When we hugged, her drawer knobs poked my chest, the sharp corner of her shoulders made a dent on my chin when I fell asleep on her, we couldn’t spoon each other without pinching my calf on her hinges or bumping my big toe against one of her panels. I almost stepped on the screen of her pholm once while messing around. My clumsiness infuriated her. Her pholm was like her lifeline, a vein bringing oxygen to her heart. She thrived on efficiency, a press on her pholm would bring Chinese take-out when I was too tired to cook from a long workday, bathroom tissues she had forgotten to purchase, or a YouRide if we needed to get to the movies, everything had to be at the tip of her thumb. She lapped up all the romantic movies, like That Christmas I Met You and whispered dialogs she’d heard to my ear as I fell asleep on the couch.

She treasured my words and stored them in her tiny drawers of her cabinet body, kept them wrapped in tissues, and would pull them out to hear them again like favorited songs. She had a special drawer for I love you when I said it to her the first time. She'd take it out to remind me I haven't said the phrase for a while. She loved asking questions like, what would I do if I could go back to the past, who I had lunch with, when did I know I loved her. She catalogued and compartmentalized each sentence into her carefully organized drawers.

Over time, she began opening and pulling out every word I had shared with her. What would I be doing if we hadn’t met? I said I wouldn’t know, maybe I’d be with someone else. That earned me an entire day of silent treatment. That time I mentioned I danced with my colleague Evie at the company Christmas party. That was too intimate. That time I mentioned an ex-girlfriend. That was disrespectful. That time I told her I needed some space. That was insulting. That time I refused to be Super Glued to her hip. That was degrading.

I had become her experiment, I didn’t pass her secret exam, and every answer I gave turned into red flags in her book. I told her, it wasn't working anymore, she and I.

We fought. Drawers banging, door slamming. She cried, I cried. She sloshed back all the tears I shed into her chest. Threw me and my tools out on the street. Said it was lame for a man to cry.

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