Metaphysics of the Proper

by the stylus

Title from Derrida. Dana from Sports Night. Everything else is my fault.

"Well," Brett had said, "there's always Casey."

She rolled over, sheets knotting around her waist. "What do you mean?"

"He loves you. Can't you see that?" Brett was the first in a long series of people who made this statement.

"I don't want Casey."



"What do you want?" Brett's left eyebrow arched playfully. It was there in the gesture, the internal understanding: playfully.

"I want--" Raising up on an elbow, she silenced herself with a kiss. "I want."

It was the closest they came to giving it a name.

"Logorrhea." Brett, pronouncing with gravity.

(Brett is draped artfully across the dilapidated armchair. She looks up from the leather-bound tome which is open in her lap. Gravely: "Logorrhea.")


"You, my dear Dana, are logorrhoetic. You cannot stand silence; it makes you confront the uncomfortable realities which you manage to otherwise keep at bay through a constant stream of banter, patter, and inanity."

The temptation was to deny: Do not. Leading, of course, to counterargument: Do, too. Degenerating, probably, into either hurt feelings or sex.

(Dana, curled into a corner of the couch, cocks her head to the side, contemplating her words and the preceding split infinitive. After a few moments she rises fluidly and moves across the room toward where Brett is seated. As she walks, she crosses her arms and grasps the bottom of her sweater, tugging it off over her head. She straddles Brett's lap, perhaps knocking the book to the floor. "Shut up." She says it forcefully. They kiss.)

Her hands are warm against Brett's stomach, under the thin blue of her shirt. The muscles flutter beneath her touch. She thinks, briefly, of birds. Then of the smell of grass in summer.

There is a long space without words in which she is completely comfortable.

They went to a lot of bars. At first they went as Brett and Dana. Later, as BrettandDana, all one gasping, laughing breath. She has always loved to dance.

Brett loved tequila. It was probably illegal in forty-eight states the way she drank Especial. The long, slow preparation--her tongue, the thin trail of salt-- then the flick of the wrist, the liquid line of her throat and the slow smile that always followed as her mouth wound around the wedge of lime.

"I'm good for you." Brett's breath whispered in her ear, golden around the edges.

She pulled back far enough to turn her head. They were so close she could feel a strain at the outside corners of her eyes, struggling to focus. "Oh, really?"

"Yep. Very good." The phrases split around their kiss. "You work too much, Dana."

Probably. She ran too far, swam too long. The librarians knew her by name; the ache in her knee never quite faded.

"I have to--"

"Bullshit." No storm warning: the anger crashed over Brett's features. The fingers wound in Dana's hair tightened, pulling at her scalp. She couldn't look away. "You work too. Goddamn. Hard."

Brett's mouth, stretched in a thin line, followed her words, bruised at Dana's lips. She could taste the cigarettes behind the tequila. What might have been frustration, or anger was there, too. There was no room for denial. Both hands tangled in her hair, holding her in. It took all her strength to push at Brett's chest for room to breathe.

"Brett, I'm so--"

Thunderheads in the dark eyes. "Don't you apologize. Don't you fucking dare apologize. Of all people, I'm the one you shouldn't have to apologize to."

She could feel herself breathe, feel the ribs expand outward one by one and her diaphragm contract down. The wooden bench of the booth was rough under her thighs. The black leather boot bit into her left leg. Close enough to touch, Brett drilled her with a level stare. One more breath and it all spun out wildly.

She stood, reached down a hand.

"Dana?" Uncertainty worrying at the edges of the question. It was a small coup.

"Come on."

"Where are we going?"

The words were like someone else's, but not the conviction. "We're going back to your apartment and I'm going to fuck you senseless."

All of Brett's poems were angry. Most of Brett's clothes were black.

"You're a cliché," Dana laughed, lying on her back in the grass. The wool blanket beneath her rasped at her cheek. When the words tumbled out, quicker than she could catch them back, her belly curled a little: trepidation.

Brett loomed over her, blocking out the sun. "Am I?" and nothing of a tone in her voice.

Swallowing hard, "Yes. My little lesbian literature grad student cliché. All black and Barthes and Bakhtin."

Brett leaned in close and traced the underside of Dana's jaw with her tongue. One hand appeared at the edge of her vision. She fed Dana a grape from the remains of their picnic. Her voice whispered in Dana's ear around her tongue, her teeth. "Trust me darling, this is nothing out of Barthes."

Brett is one of the few things that Natalie does not know about Dana. Occasionally when there is a comfortable silence stretched like sunlight between them, she considers confessing. So far she has said nothing.

At first the silence felt like a betrayal.

Her Casey-friends didn't know about Brett. They were mostly guys, those friends. Brett called them The Golden Boys when she thought Dana wasn't listening. They were: Wonder Bread and blond and shoulders squared off like their cheekbones. They laughed when she said she wanted to work in sports, but not the way other people did. Not after Dana won the argument with Greg over Honus Wagner's batting titles. She heard them quietly think she'd make it.

Dana was almost always listening.

Some afternoons when Natalie is lounging on her couch, one bare foot tucked up, the other swinging childishly, she thinks: I should tell her. Like a murderer with an insane, untethered urge to confess. Except the story that was Brett had no beginning and no real ending. There is nothing of it firm enough to grasp for "once upon a time."

When she thinks about it, the days come like the middle chapters of a novel.

"He does, you know." Brett had a dangerous voice and a head for heights.

"Does what?"

On the far wall the afternoon sun made mandalas with the shadows of leaves.

"Loves you." She said it seriously, flatly. There was no room for dispute and Dana could not reach the distance across the couch to distract her. "The Wonder Boy loves the Golden Girl."

"Brett." She rose on an elbow, a hand snaking out into the space between them. Captured her lover's pale wrist.

They both play this game of deliberate cheapening. So that the expected response is unusable, distasteful in its derivation. They strike with their claws curved inward.

She holds Brett hardest with her eyes. And then she moves over her, pinning her to the arm of the couch. She kisses her hard and holds both wrists over her head. She matches the lengths of their bodies and stays there for what seems hours, lacing their fingers together. Refusing Brett the space to speak, to flay either one of them a bit more.

She has never fought with anyone else in quite the same way. Tom was trepidation and the occasional open hand across her face; and eventually she'd wrestled herself away. Not even a backwards glance. She and Casey fight with their fists clenched at their sides, their lips tight. Only Brett had ever made her scream.

She had found she had a talent for alliteration when she was angry. ("You smug, self-satisfied bitch! For all your pretense at perception, what do you know about my life?") And that, like pushing past the first painful miles, the ache behind her eyes could transform into something powerfully addictive. Some mornings she woke with the sun slit across her face, her throat raw and her mouth tasting of Brett and sleep only to discover that, as good as she was at regret, she regretted nothing.

("What are you thinking?"
"How nice this is."
That you could film this moment like a Bunuel hallucination.)

The sun has rarely waken her since she moved to New York. Having neighbors up, down and sideways has necessitated thick curtains which are almost always closed. In the evenings, she thinks she ought to awake and fling them open. Perhaps one day she will remember that: fling.

She loves words, which have not only sounds but shapes in her mouth. Tastes. Fling: lemon sorbet, melting. It is in words that she finds and loses herself.

("Fuck, Dana. You can't keep apologizing for what you need and I can't keep promising you that it will be okay. So tell me what you want.")

There are still mornings when she awakes to find the king-sized bed rumpled on both sides. As though she has been sleeping for two.


All characters are the property of their creators. The author makes no profit from this work.