I wrote this Summer 2012 for a contest held by Dazed and Confused Magazine. They had published a dozen or so short pieces based on song lyrics and asked readers to submit their own. My song is Was Ist Ist by Einsturzende Neubauten.  Please note that while the paintings in question existed, this is a work of fiction.

She sat up in his bed flipping his box of navy cuts and stared at the dark pastel on the wall as he slept. He sucked at least a pack of the unfiltered smokes a day, but never inside his apartment. Greys and ochres surrounded intertwined white lilies and text she couldn’t translate.

They both had rooms on the same floor of a 1920s Leavenworth Avenue block of apartments. Tenants along each marble hallway shared a bathroom and shower room. Some rooms had microwave ovens, others one- or two-burner hot plates. Hers down the hall was smaller than his but always seemed larger for its lack of what he insisted on calling shit. Two tall stacks of unopened moving boxes took up one corner of the cramped skid row studio. Two ancient steamer trunks and a cheap rolling rack served to hold the clothing he still wore. CDs stood two deep on a raw pine book case, but three months after moving in, he hadn’t unpacked the stereo. Books lay in stacks wherever there was room. A drop-leaf table with one leaf raised supported a laptop and the remains of a midnight snack.

He never swore around her except when talking about the detritus of his marriage. ‘I have all this shit I wish I could throw away.’ She felt it was useless to say, again, “Just dump it”. She’d tried for weeks.

“Michael had one of Jane’s pieces too,” she said when he shuffled awake beside her. Cigarettes tempered her high-pitched voice, but accentuated the long vowels of her Texas drawl.

“I know. Even this long after, I still hate that she gave him one. Is there any coffee?” Venomous, she thought. But her ex and his ex were poisonous people.

“Not as much, I think, as I hated seeing ‘Introibo ad altare dei’ in letters eight inches high in my living room. No. The tin’s empty.”

He recalled that Michael, a grandnephew of more than one Irish priest, hadn’t known the opening of the mass. In the picture she gave him, Jane had intertwined the Latin text for it, I go forth to the altar of God, around a naked form bound with leather straps.

She hadn’t looked at him yet and turned her head away from the picture to ask, “What does that one mean?”

“Nur was nicht ist ist möglich – only what is not is possible.” Jane gave it to him after he split from her. “It’s a reminder of all the world’s possibilities,” she had said. Including, he thought, the possibilty that hate might evaporate to indifference some day. “Sounds better in the German.”

He ran a hand through his dark hair and hooked a pair of jeans off the floor with a crooked finger. He stepped into them without underwear as afternoon sun streamed through a break in the summer grey over his skinny form. He pulled a black tee shirt out of one of the trunks and said, “I’m going to the cafe. Join, or should I get you a large black?”

She picked a folding brush off the crate that served as an end table and made some sense of her short red bob, catching her reflection in the picture’s glass. Replacing it, she replied, “No, I’ll go with you.” She dug her boots and last night’s dress from under the foot of his bed. Slipping them on, she added, “I just want to change into something more daylight.”

Picking her small red clutch off the floor, she fished inside for her keys. Finding them, she set the purse on the nightstand next to the brush.

“You know what I did when I left Michael? I pulled that picture off the wall and smashed it on the floor, left the broken glass and the broken frame and took a razor blade to the paper. I cut out all the letters like a ransom note and spelled out Rot and Die. I epoxied the letters to his favorite shirt. The rest I lit up in an ashtray and left both on his bed. How’s that for possible?”

She smiled and called, “Back in a few minutes” from outside his door.