The Empire of Containment and Art


The Empire of Containment and Art



            The blanket falls off my shoulders to the floor. Sorry, I left the window open again. You're yelling about how I never put the coffee where it belongs. I shiver. You look like an addict, your eyes blood shot, your body frantic for caffeine. Where did I put it? Where? Your voice, loud, grating, full of condemnation. I pull the coffee tin from its shelf, brew a cup for you, and shove it into your hand. It spills on your blue shirt. The brown stain looks like a victory flag I'd seen in an abstract painting at the MOMA.

            The neighbor's dog barks amidst the gridlock of our yelling about my messiness, and your lack of appreciation for art.

            "Your 'art' is exactly how coffee is lost."

             "Why don't I get 'lost' then, take a taxi out to Long Island?"

            "Take the bus, taxi's too much."

             "Worth every penny."

            You don't change the stained shirt and pull me toward a cab. I’ll take my own to work today. Cabbie honks. You say it’s expensive, stupid, to ride separately. I step toward you, over a puddle, but the step is too wide and the lining under my skirt rips. We rumble toward your stop at  5th and W 15th,  and you ask if I want to shop for containers later. No. No, they won't help with our coffee situation. An apology from you would though. You disagree and pay the fare, then leave me with a close-lipped kiss.  

            I consider skipping work and telling the cabbie to head for Long Island, but first I read your text.

            You: Let's go out for sushi. Forget the containers.

            Me: I'll forget the containers but only because I like sushi.

            You: I know.

            Work is impossible. My focus brakes on intrusive memories of our small wedding at The Cloisters last fall (your choice) followed by a reception at Swing 46 (mine).

            I text: Do you still like to dance?

            You:  With you?

            Me: No. With others.

            You: Only with you.

            Me: You need to apologize.

            You: Later, over dinner.

            The restaurant is crowded with lively couples. We sip green tea, eat rice and raw fish.

"Ready, yet?"

            You hold my hand, kiss it gently. Steam escapes from underneath the city and the coffee stain fades to the color of a truce. We agree to walk home.

            From the edge of the bed, I watch you take off your shirt. "I'll wash it tomorrow."

             "Would you really have left today?" The goose bumps rise on your skin.

            I shiver. "No - not today."

            You slip under the sheets and I follow. Your breath tickles the hair behind my ear. I sneeze, and you laugh.  

            "I didn't think you'd be so loud."

            "Let's close the window, it's cold out there."

            "It's nice, the guitar from next door."

            You wrap yourself around me. The shivering stops. And on the dove wings of our "Sweet Dreams" goodnight, we drift away.

Joanna Grabarek 

The author has been writing and publishing short stories for the past few years.  Her work as a psychologist, has influenced her writing about the deeper aspects of relationships.  She lives with her husband and twin girls in the San Francisco Bay Area, and enjoys taking walks with her Pug dog, Blue. Her short stories and flash fiction have appeared in 100 Voices part 3, the YA Seven Deadly Sins: Anthology Wrath, as well as, The Scarlett Leaf Review. Follow her on twitter, @j_grabarek, and e-mail her at


  1. Sweet and sour little story about a strained relationship and what art is to
    these folks. Nice imagery ans staccato dialogue.

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