It started with a real woman in a real rose-colored dress. Roland saw her while we at the china buffet. All the while, as we’re eating, Roland is giving me this weird look. As we walk out, Roland whispers in my ear, “that woman in the rose-colored dress was staring at you the whole time.” I had no idea what he was talking about so I said, “oh yeah, the woman in the rose-colored dress, she’s been on my trail for years—she’s like a state of mind for me now.” That was sort of how the joke began.
After that, it became a thing we did—the woman in the rose-colored dress—we used her like a turn of phrase. As in: “last night Jessica took me up to her room and finally let me see the woman in the rose-colored dress,” or, “You should be careful man, if you do the woman in the rose-colored dress alone, you’ll never be able to quit,” or, “No, I think I’ll stay in tonight, got a date with the woman in the rose-colored dress,”
We weren’t able to let it go. It was something Roland and I had created together. It made us close. There was something dirty about it too, because I thought about her while I was saying those things, the actual woman in the actual rose-colored dress who I never actually saw. She was sleeping naked with me. She was there in the bathroom stalls. She was stuck to the inside of my mouth covered in spit. She inhabited our bodies, and in that way, Roland and I inhabited each other.
Roland got into some serious drugs during our third year living together. At first, it was no big deal—we loved drugs. It was great actually, because he was bringing all kinds of drugs home. We called the drugs after the woman in the rose-colored dress too. That was the only thing she meant in a certain context. You could use her for lots of things, but if you were bringing her home or picking her up, that was just for drugs.
After a while, the woman in the rose-colored dress stopped coming home—or she did come home, but Roland didn’t say anything about picking her up. He was in his room all of the time. Sometimes I’d hear him bang into the bathroom at 3PM or 5AM or 11:50PM or 7:21AM—guy never slept. That was around the time he began using the woman in the rose-colored dress against me. As in, “why don’t you go to Chinatown and pick up your own woman in a rose colored-dress,” or, “If I was the woman in the rose-colored dress, I wouldn’t take you to bed either.” He always said it like he was joking—usually when there were other people around. He liked to cut me down when we had company. No one ever took up for me either—I’m still not sure why. Around that time, I abandoned the woman in the rose-colored dress for good, and when I let her go it was sad, because it was the end of an era.
When I think back to that apartment where Roland and I used to live, I imagine the little bits of my body that I left behind, the microscopic particles of skin and saliva left in the cracks and between the walls—the small bit of myself left in places that never get clean. I imagine that Roland’s dust is back there too. And at night, when the new tenants are asleep, our dust collects and magnetizes into these staggering, long limbed creatures—tiny versions of what we were—and they wander together, quiet and aimless. The apartment in the darkness, like an entire world. And they search for that woman in the rose-colored dress whose body made them, but whose face they can no longer recall.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF MARCUS COOPER.