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March 2006, vol 2 no 1

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Brynne McAdoo

Electric Fence

For years, I was in love with a man who had staked an electric fence around his heart. He collared me—enrolling my lonely heart into training—the first night we were together. We walked home from dinner and wine, and he waved his hand at the moon, waxing how it augured promise for us.

waning moon—
my lover and I
pretend it's full

From the beginning, I ignored all signs of the limited relationship zone. It felt so good to be in a man's arms that I exhaled an "ahhh" and did not see the surging wires swinging in my face or the warning flags that I tripped over as I went fetching for intimacy.

This man professed he was an "old-fashioned bachelor." He liked to sleep alone within the boundaries of his single twin bed. He rarely hugged me in public, only occasionally in a dark bar, after a few pints. One Valentine's Day, he changed our plans at the last minute. He wanted his mother to come to dinner with us.

stood up again this night—
the moon and I

Early on, I was disciplined to behave correctly. Once we made love doggy-style on the floor of his basement. The musty smell of damp concrete mixed with our sweat. I looked into his eyes the color of sky, loosened my collar enough to choke out the words, "I love you."

Zap! An electric arc coursed my spine. It was the first of many corrections. "Look, I'm not ready for a commitment," he explained, reaching for his boxers. I had been naughty.

"Punish me, baby, please ... I'm out of bounds," I pleaded another time. I pulled up my skirt to reveal black lace garters. Surprised, I had not a ping of a warning. Apparently, sex—uncomplicated by love—was totally permissible.

"Beautiful," he praised. "I haven't seen that in a while. Let's see what happens with us."

I nosed about for an inherent flaw in his system. I dug at his emotions, trying to find the hole that led to his heart.

"You're the first man I ever loved." Sizzle.

"You're ... a ... special woman," he said, not meeting my gaze as he stroked my neck.

I dyed my hair, lost weight, pierced my belly button. Another year:

"I'm in love with you." Hiss.

"Thank you," he replied. And then he cooked me a gourmet dinner of chicken soaked in wine; he fed me each forkful.

I wrote him love poems. I let the phone ring when I knew it was him, thinking he might wonder where I was. I read self-help books like How to Talk to Your Man.

"I love you." Crackle.

"I love the way you work so hard." And then he tucked me in. "Sweet dreams, baby," he whispered.

After five years passed, I'd had enough. I made a plan for the last dash, aiming to sink my teeth into the guarded, soft meat of his heart.

"Honey, you make me happy. We laugh and then you calm me with your steady voice. See how long we've been together. But I need more. I need to know you really love me. Just tell me, please." I could sense his heart muscle contracting, quivering into itself.

his silence
shouting the answer—
new moon

A direct lightning hit. The circuitry overloaded. How could he give me up? The next day I packed my things, left my collar hanging on his bedpost as I slammed the door behind me. Unleashed, I vaulted, looking for a steady mark on the horizon.

after I left him—
moon sliver

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