The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Michelle Auerbach’s “The Third Kind of Horse”



Selection from The Third Kind of Horse


There comes a time in every relationship when the thing I loved about the person, the romance I’ve made up about her, or this time him, falls apart. The mystique – that Kevin was a dreamer and a beautiful musician and the perfect friend who would never let me down, that’s the key, he would never let me down, the mystique that I could finally be safe with this person and be myself and be accepted one hundred percent, started to dissipate. I questioned if he would bail me out of jail, sit for hours and dissect the most seemingly benign conversation with some ex so that I can get it out of my system, would want me till the end of the world. Okay, so some of it was rational and some of it reeked of little girl wants daddy, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting daddy.

Then, there’s a fight or simply words that no one can take back hanging there in the middle of the room. It doesn’t have to be a real fight even, just the realization that to some degree, I made up this Kevin in my head. Worst of all is the unveiling moment when I see my lover differently than I used to and I can’t keep up the story that this is the perfect woman, or in Kevin’s case, the perfect man. I wanted a perfect dream lover, friend, and human. All that I’ve got left in front of me is a bare, slippery, newborn human being, or at least my vision of him is newborn, the same person was always right there, but I had this elaborate ruse going on in which I saw curly blonde hair, a guitar, cigarettes, beautiful arms, this complete sense of competency when I acted like that my mother calls a flutterbudget. This amalgam of bits, this constellation, this way in which my mind makes a person out of only what I’m willing to notice, does everyone do this? Or, is this what if felt like to be an incurable romantic? This is it. How many times have I said that, decided that this is the person for me? This is it. Except it never was, until the last time. Sistah D said, “Things are always in the last place you look for them.”

And I always thought I finally finished looking.

I saw something that didn’t fit in. In this case it was Kevin’s stubborn insistence that I not call myself a lesbian. He was hurt And said so. “If you’re a lesbian, then where do I fit in?” Wow. I once read in a self-help book about relationships that people eventually hate each other for the same reasons they once were attracted. I can’t say Kevin liked me because I’m a dyke, but it’s not like it’s a huge surprise. He liked that I was an outsider, like him. He saw us as similar.

I couldn’t stand the word bisexual. Probably because in the lezzie world it meant something very negative, just like gentrification means something terrible to lefties and something marvelous to real estate developers. I just couldn’t do it. I mean, honor the call of the cootchie, but use the word? Not. And Kevin felt I’d basically committed to a political cause over him. No shit, Sherlock. I could no more give up being the radical lesbian activist as I could give up being a curly haired Jew from the tri- state area. I couldn’t stop being me.

A tiny voice in the back of my head that sounded surprisingly like Artemis was whispering, “You are doing this on purpose to keep him at a distance. You don’t really want to be that close. You will ruin it so it feels familiar.” I shut it out best I could, but I couldn’t forget I heard it.

Nor could I make the look of alienation and confusion smooth off Kevin’s face. I wanted to say the message here is to keep my mouth shut, stop having the conversation about where he fits in and just live, but that would have taken away all the times we’ve gotten closer through understanding. Through filling what space we maintained between our bodies with a web of attachments and knowledge that comes alive, like a new vascular system. We’re undeniably connected, and I wouldn’t take it back now, now I get to figure out how to be real.

Wake up, wake up. Sleepers awake. Now, that I’ve dropped that little fantasy I inhabited all by myself, I get to decide how to love this person, or if I think this person even merits the energy. Is a sad, difficult man, who I thought I wanted more than all the last calls in Manhattan, is that guy asleep in my bed worth it? I can sit on the couch picking out the stuffing through the hole under the pillow and staring out the windows all night and my mind will never give me an answer I like. My mind says, “Run you stupid bitch before it is too too late.” My mind says, “You’ve already given up too much, there’s nothing in the future worth this sea change in your life. Go back to the girls you know and leave the devil you don’t know asleep.”

I just believed that one day, and I thought it was today, that I would look, see the person behind all that, and this person would still be kind, warm, loving, caring, beautiful, intuitive, sweet, passionate, and I would get to say the great big yes.

This excerpt appeared in Michelle Auerbach’s book, The Third Kind of Horse, available from Beatdom Books. Purchase yours today!

Michelle Auerbach is the author of The Third Kind of Horse (2013 Beatdom Books). Her writing has appeared in (among other places) The New York Times, The London Guardian, The Denver Quarterly,Chelsea Magazine, Bombay Gin, and the literary anthologies The Veil (UC Berkley Press), Uncontained (Baksun Books), and You. An Anthology of Essays in the Second Person (Welcome Table Press). She is the winner of the 2011 Northern Colorado Fiction Prize. Michelle is an organizational storytelling and communications consultant and lives in Colorado with her partner and her three kids.

Beth Couture is an assistant editor with Sundress Publication and the secretary of the board of directors of SAFTA. She is also the fiction editor of Sundress’ newest imprint, Doubleback Books. Her own work can be found in Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, Yalobusha Review, the Thirty Under Thirty anthology from Starcherone Books, Dirty, Dirty from Jaded Ibis Press, and other publications. Her first book, a novella titled Women Born with Fur, is due out in the fall from Jaded Ibis Press. She teaches at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA.

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