Break 008: Limitations and Space/22 Endings for a Story About Marriage - Extended Episode
featuring MariGo and Amber Sparks
On this episode of the Dance Cry Dance Break, “22 Endings for a Story About Marriage,” written by Amber Sparks, inspired by Limitations and Space, the new instrumental EP from Seattle artist and producer MariGo.
Seattle based multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer, educator, and Twitch streamer, MariGo (Mari Sullivan), is a tender force to be reckoned with. The daughter of a musical doctor and a painter, MariGo’s upbringing included taking piano lessons with her sisters, leaving school to catch Chicago Symphony Orchestra rehearsals, and eventually a degree in classical voice from the University of Denver. But the rigidity of the classical music world didn’t fit MariGo, an artist who thrives on meshing together different muses. Instead, she set out to write her own music and explore more experimental sounds—like the otherworldly pop of artists like Bjork and Kimbra, and the kaleidoscopic production of Flying Lotus and Pretty Lights.
Her third EP is a departure from past releases which heavily feature her smooth vocals. Limitations and Space is an instrumental work created in the lonely seclusion of the pandemic lockdowns. While stuck in a small home studio, MariGo created this collection of beats inspired by the vastness of space and her beloved science fiction books.
MariGo is part of the elite group of Ableton Certified Trainers, making her one of eight women in the United States to hold the certification. She is driven to uplift and empower women and LGBTQ people in the world of music technology through her work in music and education.
Amber Sparks is the author of four collections of short fiction, including And I Do Not Forgive You: Revenges and other Stories and The Unfinished World, and her fiction and essays have appeared in American Short Fiction, the Paris Review, Tin House, Granta, The Cut and elsewhere. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband, daughter, and two cats.
22 Endings for a Story About Marriage
By Amber Sparks
And so it began! I do, she said, and he said it too, and he was weeping, and she was not, and this was nothing new. There were tears, sometimes, on the tip of her tongue, but she swallowed them always. She put her hands on either side of his face and said his name; she carried him over the threshold with the sheer, unyielding force of her personality. People cheered, and the music flew out of the speakers and into the hearts of everyone there. It was a celebration, and they decided to run headlong into it. They held hands and ran into joy, into the ridiculous sunshine, and into the rest of their lives.
The baby, at least, was finally asleep. And now the baby was dreaming murmurs, drawn into the bedroom in threads through the monitor. And now the baby was the only quiet heart in the house.
There was only the loud slam of the car door, then the long, slow silence that followed.
She was dancing, alone and in love with herself. He had never seen her dance, had never seen her wear her hair that way, and somehow this was worse than any affair. Her hair! Her dress! This was the nightmare his friends had warned him about. He had married a complete stranger!
Have you spoken to your husband about this, the doctor asked? He frowned. He was older, white-haired and disapproving; he is sure husbands should be consulted about all things. Oh yes, she lied. Yes, he’s completely on board. Yes.
Finally she said it, the unsayable thing. Are you still in love with me? He stood still for a long time, surprised by the calm violence of the question. The two-year-old sat on the floor between them, stacking her blocks, thankfully impervious to the sudden shift in the weather.
At dinner he saw that her hair, and the daughter’s hair, were both bright pink. Mermaid hair. She saw him staring, and smiled. It’s better than buying a motorcycle, she said, and calmly got up to clear the dishes.
They laughed then, a good, hungry laugh, until they felt like people who had forgotten time and space. Let’s make cookies, he said, and let’s eat every one of them while the kids are asleep. Let’s eat chocolate chip cookies until we puke, she said.
She slid down next to him on the floor, took his head, and tucked it into her breast, a brazen benediction. His sadness made her feel almost holy, her hair down in curtains around him like both Marys: mother, whore, saint. She opened her legs.
There was not even enough money to fix the drywall, let alone the rest of it, but it didn’t matter after all. If it was all going to rot, let it rot. Let it all break down like everything does in the end, as the gods intended. Let the sidings crumble, let the brickwork crack, let the vines find their way through the openings to let life in, to let green life in at last. Let entropy take the wheel.
Everyone, he thought, becomes a pod person at some point. Look at her. Her eyes were not hers, they belonged to someone older, happier, more tired. They were such exhausted eyes; they looked like they were longing only to close.
What will we do now, she said? The house, empty and blank, echoed back at her, but did not provide an answer.
He was the better cook, but tonight he would let her experiment. He knew it wasn’t the right outlet for her, but when someone is finding themselves, you can’t tell them where to go. You can’t provide a map. All you can do is say, I love you at the start of the journey, and I love you upon the long-awaited return. And eat the shitty dinner.
He’s gone, she said, he’s gone, and her tears were so shocking and unexpected, so incongruous that the husband just kept sipping his whiskey, making no move at all to comfort her. Her phone lay on the floor, playing a song he’d never heard, on repeat. The whole scene kept circling, a terrible time loop: her tears, the song, his whiskey. He wondered if it would go on like this for the rest of their lives. Tears, song, whiskey, ad infinitum. Tears, song, and whiskey.
The son walked up the drive and saw them through the living room window, laughing together, intimate and tender; it occurred to him for the first time that they were people he didn’t know. It was ridiculous to spy on one’s own parents like this, as if they were strangers, and yet, there was a kind of gentle pleasure in it, too. He wondered what they were like, these people he’d never met before. He wondered what they hoped for, what their favorite color was, what they dreamed about at night. He wondered if they liked him. I must remember to treat them like people, he said, though of course he would never recall this moment again, not even when he had grown children of his own.
Promise me you’ll never do it again, said the husband. I promise, she said, and the rain outside fell like glass, breaking everything around it.
I like your chin hairs, he said. I like the way your nose sags a little at the end now, like it’s tired, she said. I like the lines around your eyes, like a spiderweb, he said. I like the way the veins on the back of your hands show up, like blue rivers, she said. I like the way your dreams are vivid now, when you tell me about them at breakfast, he said. I like the way you’re kinder now, she said, softer, like somebody sanded you down. I like the way your eyes never change, he said, how I can time travel back to young us just by looking. I love that too, she said. Let’s go.
When he retired, they threw him a big party, in a park with a cake and a band. I’d like to have a party like that, she said. You’re a mother, he said. You already retired when the kids left home. I paint, she said, her face stony. Well, you’re not going to stop, are you, he asked? So why throw you a party? For what? For what? For what?
In the florescent glare of the hospital lights, his face looked ghastly, white with a purple cast. You’ll be fine, she said, and held his hand. She did not believe he would be fine.
When they finally got to Florence, they were exhausted. I need a nap, she said, and he nodded, though he hated her afternoon nap. You sleep like you’re dead, he said, and it always frightens me. At least you know what I’ll look like when I’m dead, she said. It’s good practice. For what, he said? I’ll think you’re sleeping until it’s too late. Why should I break my heart twice?
I didn’t sleep with her, he said. I know, she said. You’re too old. I don’t love her, he said. I know, she said. You’re too old to love anybody but me. You won’t leave me, will you, he asked? She shook her head. I’m too old to love anybody but you. She took out her aggression on the weeds in the flowerbed, telling them sternly that people will absolutely surprise you, forever until you’re dead. And that sometimes the surprises were very goddamn surprising.
They drove home from the doctor’s office silently; she was at the wheel since his reaction time had gotten long lately. The snow fell gently on the road, as if it were trying to bury the bad news. I guess, he said, that after all this time together, dying is a thing we have to do separately. Maybe, she said. Maybe it isn’t, and she straightened the wheel, drove right past their house. Where are you going, he asked? I don’t know, she said. She rolled down the window. Her hair blew back in the breeze, and she felt about eighteen years old. She felt like she could go dancing forever. Who knew you could be so old and still want your whole life back? It’s raining, he said, are you crazy? Roll the window up. She ignored him and let the rain sprinkle her face, her neck, let it wash her life away and make her clean and new again with him. Do you want to get pneumonia, he said? I do, she said, and laughed and laughed. It turned out she was delighted with her life after all, after all of it.
Limitations and Space was written, produced, and performed by MariGo.
“22 Endings for a Story About Marriage” was written by Amber Sparks and voiced by Simone Maddox, Emma Tigan, Joe Mondi, Sean Letourneau, Elaine Saw, Matt Badger, Michelle Ochitwa, Zak Ferguson, Brianna Vox, Wayne Corbeil, Kim Nguyen, Ryan McNulty, Maggie Ross, Ben Baeyens, Jessica Fisher, Jackie Yates, Joe Maluso, Mia Rodriguez, Rodney Harter, Cordelia Heart, and Kristen DiMercurio.
The Dance Cry Dance Break is written and produced by Natalie Bayne and recorded and edited by Moe Provencher. Timaree Marston is our Story Editor.
Theme music is Red Lines, by Dance Cry Dance Records artist Tiny Tiny.
Dance Cry Dance is a collective record label in Seattle, WA. Paid subscriptions support our artists and writers.