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invisible tour guide

The Long Vacation

1.

We stand next to each other at a shallow trough full of muddy water, sifting for gems with our fingers.

You find a large white stone in the shape of a peacock feather and slip it into my pocket, so we won’t have to pay.

On the way out, we are short a dollar, and I have to make up the difference in dimes.

The small boy following us hides rocks in his cheeks, sucking on the stones like popsicle sticks.

We load his backpack with semi-precious pieces to take back to his mother.

2.

You have yet to buy the right shampoo, so I can’t wash my hair and I wear the same t-shirt for five days.

As we sit down to dinner, your cat throws herself at my face.

You refuse to give me my own key, so I draw on your cheeks when you’re unconscious.

When I try to touch you as you sleep, you shove me until I tip off the mattress.

The windows won’t open, the walls hum and heat up, and the freezer won’t hold ice. We can hear the neighbor’s air conditioner working next door.

The stones from the gift shop scatter from the nightstand, hiding and winking like thieves: somehow the chain lock got ripped from the wall.

We have that argument again, about whether this is, or is not, a dream.

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Impossible

I have become convinced, despite her protestations to the contrary, that there is no right shampoo.