By Jennifer Todhunter (ART BY MARTHA WIRKIJOWSKI)
He tells me we can’t sit on the couch, we can’t be on the bed, that’s what he says when he opens the door to his apartment. His hair's all askew, his breath puffy and curdled, and I say, of course, of course we can’t do those things, and I lie in the middle of the living room floor, in the middle of the rug she bought from the thrift store when we were high and in love with its sensible colours. Do you adore it? she’d asked, running her fingers along its tapestry, touching her shoulder to mine. I want you to adore it.
He exhales and lies next me, next to the coffee table covered in sympathy cards, overstuffed ashtrays, and half-full beer cans. There are candles burning on the windowsills, maybe the same candles burning from her wake, or maybe they’re different candles lit from the flames on the tables we sat drinking around while he eulogized their time together. She was a bitch, he’d said. She was a bitch and she left me.
The room smells of cumin and coriander, of coconut milk and lime, and my stomach rumbles. You’re hungry, he says, and he’s up and he’s feeding me a bursting bowl of curry and rice, just as he tried to feed her all those days she lay dying. He watches me eat, and he nods while I chew, something instrumental and melancholy floating from his stereo speakers. The music feels as if it should have words, but it doesn’t, just as we should have words, but we don’t.
He pulls my hand into his after I’ve finished eating. His pulse thrums somewhere in his palm, and I grip him tightly, not wanting to let go of that beat, not wanting to let go of him.
She wasn’t a bitch, he says finally, his thick fingers laced through mine.
I loved her, he says, and somewhere, something in my body breaks.
I know, I say, pulling a rust-coloured pillow from the couch and tucking it under our heads. She loved you too.
But she loved you more, he says, and the curry splits in my stomach at the thought of how complicated these night calls used to be, at the thought of how the three of us used to lie on this floor and look at each other, not one of us wanting the same person back.
This piece was previously published in Ellipsis Zine, but removed from publication.
(Artist) Martha Wirkijowski's extensive portfolio of oil paintings consist of luminous portraits, landscapes, and still lifes. Her work has been noted for its dramatic use of color light and shadow. Martha's artistic passion takes influence from her polish father and great-grandfather, along with her love for traveling. She was particularly enlightened by the mysterious atmospheres of Amsterdam and Providence, RI and seeks to translate these sensations into her paintings. In 2016, she graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Illustration. During her studies, she further explored the elusive medium of oil paint and continues to devote time in her studio every day.
Artist's Statement, "I Love Coffee", Oil on canvas, 24" x 18"
My oil paintings resonate from the influence of my conversations and dreams. My speech mannerisms, which I handle sensitively, are comparable to the ways in which I block in brush strokes in my paintings. The style of my work is mainly focused on simplified colors and shapes; so that I am able to visually communicate with every brush stroke.
Much like many of my recurring dreams, my paintings range from the foreboding to horrific. I create oil paintings that span from suburban landscapes to uncanny subjects such as ghosts and monsters. The tamer subjects look appealing, but become progressively macabre when further inspected; detailed with crooked geometric shapes and infesting shadows. My horror paintings are based off of the disturbing visuals I experienced in my dreams. As dreams are fragments of reality and imagination, the paintings are referenced from collage images and sketches which I then translate through my blocked-in brushwork.