As the door shuts quietly behind Christopher I throw my bowl of raspberries and cream at it, hoping for a cathartic explosion of porcelain and blood red fruit pulp. But our damned loft is so huge the bowl arcs limply and thuds onto our wine-barrel floor, a single crack down its center releasing the little raspberries. They skitter across the floor like hermit crabs searching for a new home.
After fifteen years, Christopher has just announced he is leaving me, saying he didn’t want to, but it was what we need for our next album to thrive.
“We’ll be like Fleetwood Mac,” he said, casually, like saying “we’ll be like the Thompsons in 2B.” (We won’t actually be like the Thompsons in 2B. They smell like asparagus and are worth a hundred million.)
“They were all breaking up and fighting when they wrote Rumours,” he said, staring at his phone screen, not me, “and it’s one of the best albums of all time.”
“Their next album was Tusk, which means cock!” I screeched back at him. “I take it you’ll be writing that one?”
Some context: We are the world’s first and only chart-topping gay-husband pop duo. I write the music; Christopher sings lead vocals. I also play the piano and sing back up. His job is to look and sound pretty. Our first two albums both went platinum. Our third, an ill-advised folksy tribute to our attempts to adopt a child, had flopped. Hence Christopher’s decision to join Grindr and move into our country house, leaving me alone in our Soho loft to write our fourth album, which was supposed to be about going back to our roots.
We met at the Georgia State Fair. He showed up in the livestock tent, his midnight black skin the exact opposite of the cow’s milk that had dominated my life up to that point. I practically panted as I told him everything there was to know about my family’s herd of blue-ribbon Jerseys.
But this fourth album, “A Fair to Remember,” had not been going well. We’d written and performed both of our first two albums, “Christopher Street” (also the name of our band) and “Edie Windsor” in a flurry of sexual and creative energy. Success had come fast and easy. Now, after the disaster of “Rainbow Child,” I was self-conscious about my writing.
I should clean up the raspberries. Instead, I go into the writing room, sit down in my writing corner, a nest of silk pillows and cashmere scarves. I leaf through my notebook, ignoring the snot and tears falling onto my words.
I open to the page where I’ve been writing the album’s titular song. All we’d decided on thus far was the chorus, a monotonous falsetto that would crescendo hauntingly: I’m coming to the fair tonight.
I need to lay down some verses, some clever plays on words. I need to channel my grief and rage into musical brilliance. But what Christopher had failed to realize was that I’d written our best material when I’d been happiest.
Verse One: Denial
I’m coming to the fair tonight.
He’ll remember. When he hears this, he’ll remember and he’ll come back. God, I’m such a cliché.
Verse Two: Regret
I’m firing the au pair tonight.
We hired an au pair before we even got a baby. Christopher said, “We should get to know her, since she’ll basically be raising our kid.” That stuck with me, a splinter that gradually grew infected. We couldn’t have a baby! We were busy and selfish. Christopher was a scataphobe – how could he change a diaper? I fired the au pair, told Christopher I wasn’t ready.
Verse Three: Anger
I’m breaking Fiestaware tonight.
Our décor is modern, and Christopher doesn’t cook. He barely eats. Yet he collects garish, bumpkinish Fiestaware plates, cups, saucers, and bowls. I’m going to break every last piece.
Verse Four: Loneliness
I’m eating éclairs tonight.
I haven’t eaten a pastry since our honeymoon. I’ll have a dozen tonight. I’ll let my body go. We honeymooned in Paris. We sat at cafés and ate croissants and éclairs and we went to Sephora before it was popular and bought so much soap and eye cream that we had to buy an extra suitcase
Verse Five: Hope
I’m opening for Cher tonight.
I’ll get my own record deal, and it will be huge. Not as huge as we were, but comfortably huge. I won’t have my own arena tour; I’ll open for Cher. That’s the dream, isn’t it? And Christopher will see me, successful and independent, and he’ll remember that boy who showed him how to milk a cow all of those years ago.
Verse Six: Reconstruction
I’m dancing with bears tonight.
I always seem to attract bears. Maybe because I’m slender, fine boned. Maybe they want to take care of me. But I’ve never dated one. I’ve only dated Christopher. I’ll get together with some friends, who had better choose me in the divorce, and go to some dirty bear bar. I’ll let them buy me drinks. And when one of our songs comes on, I’ll kiss one of them, out of spite.
Verse Seven: Acceptance
You’re having an affair tonight.
This is all that really matters, isn’t it? I would have given up all of the music for Christopher, and he gave me up for the music. When he gets home, he won’t find any broken Fiestaware (okay, maybe that hideous gravy boat in forget-me-not blue). He won’t find an empty donut box (I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction). He won’t find any XXL leather harnesses and jockstraps (that’s what bears wear, isn’t it?). And he won’t find me.
Like Sharon Stone and the zipper, Mike McClelland is originally from Meadville, Pennsylvania. He has lived on five different continents but now resides in Georgia with his husband and a menagerie of rescue dogs. He often collaborates on projects with his brother, Casey (an artist), and his work has appeared in several anthologies and in publications such as Permafrost, Heavy Feather Review, ink&coda, Cactus Heart, and Poetry Pacific, among others. Keep up with him at magicmikewrites.com.
Casey McClelland is a painter, potter, and assemblist. Originally from Pennsylvania, Casey has studied at Edinboro University but is primarily a student of the school of life. His technique is largely self-taught and experimental, he often collaborates with his brother Mike (a writer), and he enjoys spending his days trying new and exciting things. He lives in Georgia with his family. Find him on Instagram @artbycasey