Copper

The story starts as love stories always do, with a girl and a boy.

The girl has copper-dust eyes and lips of rose-gold, a masterpiece of metallurgy that makes men -and women- sigh when she leans too close on the subway. She's so perfect, too perfect, so maybe that explains why her words are rounded out with concertina wire, why her fingernails are jagged chips of iron (But we all know that the unevenness is because she nibbles at them, clicks sounding where iron meets calcium and one element chips).

The boy is paper and glass, his heart a delicate confection of crystal piping and flowing ink. Sometimes if a stranger passes by too quickly, he'll blow over, swept across blocks until he hits a fence or a signpost or maybe a parked car. On rainy days, he always looks a little smudged, features blurring at the edges because not even the biggest umbrellas can keep out all the rain. Look at his face when the sunlight filters through and you'll see his lifeblood flowing through parchment arteries, liquid tears welling in his eyes that he can never let fall because what good is wet paper?

They meet at a grocery store on the corner of Main and Fifth Avenue. She's there to find wire cutters- her hair is out of control, he's there to refill his stock of pens, depleted because he chews through the tip when he’s deep in thought. He looks up from the stacks of notebooks, her gaze sweeps away from the boxes of loose screws. Their eyes meet. She's the one that looks away.

“Hello,” he calls, unable to help himself, “the weather is lovely today.”

“Good morning,” she replies gravely, trying to pull herself out of his orbit, “I do love the sun.”

She fails and so he writes down her number on his wrist, smiling whenever he looks down on it during the day. He keeps it until it finally smudges, a dusty, sooty spot of ink, the beginning of a five barely visible.

The first time he texts her, they decide on Olive Garden after two days of intermittent, three or four word messages. The only thing left uneaten on the table are the breadsticks. He pays for the meal and afterwards, they make love in his tiny closet-bedroom.When they’re both in the hazy, amorphous state of afterwards, she looks at him, at the light glowing behind his cheekbones, and tells him that she could love him. He smiles at her, says nothing, fragile fingers brushing over her shoulder as he pulls on his pants. Later on she realizes that it’s only the bedroom lamp, but by then, it’s too late.

She speaks in hyperbole, all 'this is the worst', and 'I'm dying', and 'I'll never love anyone as much as I love you', speaking in superlatives though she really means very little. He speaks with understatement, euphemisms, voice low, gentle, soothing, everything he is as opposed to her. When they argue, the first time happening on their fifth date, the sounds that emanate from behind apartment walls is beautiful, an undulating rhythm that rises and falls.

Opposites attract, and so of course they fall in love. In theory, on paper, this would mean that his softness would smooth down her edges, his silence temper her noise until they met in the middle. In reality, it means that she cuts into him every once in a while, unconsciously, unnecessarily, sharp edges shredding his fingers when they lie in bed together. It means he stifles her, sometimes, the incomplete weight of his hand on hers uncomfortable to a girl who was meant to be an anchor herself, until she wants to scream.

They can only ever get everything right when they’re in bed, and the feeling of his body against hers cancels out the other problems that lurk. Even then, when they’re finished and she’s sitting on the bed, she frowns.

“You nicked me,” she says, fingers brushing over her once-flawless abdomen, tracing down the line of a paper cut.

“I’m sorry,” he says, unrepentant, luxuriating in the fact that he’s able to mark her as easily as she can mark him, fingers still stained by the friction of metal.

The next morning, he hugs her, fingers tracing down smooth copper once again. He looks up at her and she flushes, feeling guilty, somehow.

“I sanded it away,” she says in way of explanation, and he nods, unsatisfied and unable to express his dissatisfaction.

They’re stuck in retrograde, a contrary dance that hurts them both. It’s unhealthy, and he knows it, but since she turns her face away from what she doesn’t want to see, she doesn’t.

A boy with glass bones and papery skin and a girl with words that cut like razor blades don’t seem like much of a match. And in truth, they weren’t. In the end, it’s only fitting, only sensible that she shredded him to pieces until there was nothing but scraps left and he dulled her gunmetal voice to nothing but a pale whisper, a cautionary tale of splintered metal and dust.

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