Rachel #1 answers the phone when I’m trying to sleep and tells love to go fuck himself until he’s sober, but love won’t shut up. Love dries out in a jail cell. Love comes back to buy her a steak dinner. She says maybe I should give love a chance. I tell love to go fuck himself while I’m trying to sleep. Love comes back and builds a nest at the foot of my bed. I tell love I’m vegan, I’m celibate, I don’t want anything I can’t pluck from the earth with my own hands. I quit drinking, convinced rum is a magnet for the kind of love that needs an owner like a skeletal stray hound does. I tell love to get help, get well, shake his fleas at another doorstep. Love tells me to go fuck myself all the way to spinsterhood. And I try, And I try, until every subway car is full of porn stars who want to kiss my belly and tug my hair. And I can’t get the salty promise of summer off my skin, so I slip into a bath of red wine and wait for love to come join me.
Rachel #2 says we have to be willing to be fools for love. When her worst love decided to go be worst for someone else who didn’t mistake his bucking for gladness, she dyed her hair blue with Kool-Aid. One fall before the cold took hold of the ground, we dazzled the quad with chalk rainbows, told passersby our love could be bigger than our fathers planned for us. She changed her last name this fall. I wasn’t invited. Next love, I promise to be foolish. I’ll spend my next month’s rent tattooing your name somewhere visible. I’ll scour the yellowing pages of my grandmother’s cookbook, bake you a cake without occasion, let you lick the rich buttered batter from the beaters. I will love you full. I will love you like a milk-heavy breast loves the prefect, gaping mouth that relieves its ache in the morning.
Rachel #3 says to go with the one who loves you biblically. She says this for her daughters, not me. My mother says she didn’t love my father for years of their marriage but does again somehow. My mother is not a Rachel but once forced all the jewelry from her first love down a garbage disposal and fished it back out. I played dress up with the mangled white gold, loose opals gleaming in my palms. I don’t have a garbage disposal. Today, I put on earrings from the last love to buy me anything less disposal than dinner. They matched each other. That was the best I could manage. Rachel #3 keeps saying, if it brings me to you. If it brings me to you. If it brings me to you, Love, I will collect ornaments from all the suitors who think I need decoration. One Christmas, after too much eggnog, I will bump a blown-glass bulb from our first tree. Its quick, splintered light will cut our socked feet as we sweep. And this will not be the last time we nurse each others’ wounds. I am not good with fragile things, but I swear I will love all that you unearth for me —your stinted roots, all the tender you’ve long buried.