There is a dream where you are an expert at swallowing hearts and Vincent van Gogh is charming in his complete and utter distaste for himself. He sits in the same corner every evening with a sunset gleaming on his clothes, singing to himself in a thin tenor. The house flinches every time either of you touch its walls. Soon, it will want to pack up its bags and leave the both of you behind.
You mispronounce his name on purpose to make yourself laugh — even when he digs his nails into your shoulders, leaving raised half-moons in the skin. He only ever says the same thing: "I hate, I hate, I hate" — you have never bothered to learn any language that is not your own but loathing is understandable in any tongue. For days afterwards, you burn his paintings methodically in the pit built in the front yard with his encouragement.
For your birthday, Vincent hands you a blown-glass jar with his heart beating in the center, surrounded by almond blossoms and hay. There is only a small hole in his chest, as big as a corkscrew. He only smiles when you reach over to touch it, scraping at the leftover atria that hadn't come all the way loose.
In bed you cover him like a caul and try to push him into sleep. You tell him all the familiar tragedies that he knows: that the melancholy will never end, and his paintings will go ignored for centuries. You tell him that he will not be missed when he expires, and, in fact, there will be parades held in celebration. You hiss that the women laugh at his back when he leaves them, and make his name into a joke. "Nobody is waiting for you to speak," you murmur, and Vincent tips quietly into sleep. You place coins on his eyelids, so that he wakes up with a start. Every night is like he is preparing to be buried, and you shriek with laughter when they fall from his face.
The two of you dance cheek to cheek in the kitchen, feet boring holes in his sketchbook pages, which he has littered the ground with, like a sullen child. You bite into his throat, and he strokes your hair: both of these leave blood behind. He whispers into your ear — it's only meant for you to hear but the house catches the sound and won't stop shuddering for days after.
Imaani Cain is an emerging writer from New England with a passion for magical realism. When she isn't writing, she's either painting or studying French.