Rouge skin breaking with
a sharp crunch under white teeth
on a summer’s day.
Rouge skin breaking with
a sharp crunch under white teeth
on a summer’s day.
My mom goes to therapy once a week. It’s cause I’m a bad child. I don’t talk. I don’t watch TV. I don’t go to school. Don’t do a lot of things, really.
I know I wasn’t born like that. The doctor counted, mom counted, I counted; ten fingers, ten toes. When I was three, I was babbling away, all this talk about Lui Lui, Marc and Buff. No one knew them, since they lived sorta far away, but they’d come at night and stuff, and we’d talk for hours.
I think you can only say so much in a day. Maybe a thousand words. Maybe two. But if you overextend, you reach into the next day’s words. And the next. I probably did that. Probably talked so much that I ran out of words forever.
When I was small, and my words were reaching their peak, I’d lose little things. An a, a the, it, thing, no. Then, they got bigger. I couldn’t say names, or sorry, or thanks. It got to the point that mom would ask a question and just have to shrug a moment later cause my response wasn’t coming.
At those times, mom would sink a little- imperceptibly -like a raft with a small hole. Then her eyes would wane to an unfocused gray, and her fists would clench, and those white streaks in her hair would fall into her face.
She’d look angry. She’d look sad. She’d look gray, like laundry you washed too often. But worst of all, she looked like she’d cry to pieces. And me, words already failing, would just stand there and rub her back in soft, slow circles, like an iron to clothes, and I’d smooth out the wrinkles of her soul.
After the moment passed, and then the single moment of disappointment became hours of shame, and those hours became days of failure, mom bought a notebook. It was cheap, the black covered kind that are always on sale. She got stickers and crayons too, and we put the stickers all over the cover and wrote conversations in crayon.
“How are you?”
Sometimes, we’d write silly conversations, me in green (my favorite color) and mom in purple. I’d bring up an elephant, she’d say it was in a plane over Narnia, I’d say Narnia was just north of Neverland, she’d laugh up a storm that blew them all away. Rinse and repeat.
But then, the writing kept happening and the communication kept ending. We’d write and write and write, but I never had enough words. Statements. Language is insatiable.
And when I had to stand there in the middle of the day and shake my head cause I could “say” no more- my pages had run out -my mom’s expression would shift. Revert back to those days of shame. The problem was, though, that I had changed too. I could no longer iron out her soul, and I knew she could no longer smooth out mine.
The last man on Earth sat alone at his desk. He heard a knock at the door. Soft, persistent.
He stood up, he hadn’t stood in a long time(, there hadn’t been a need), held his breath, knees creaking as he stepped to the rotten door. Anticipation stole air as his cool hand reached for the doorknob. He needed a person on the other side. Not wanted, not wished, but needed.
His voice had not been used in so long. It ached in his throat, reaching from the hollows of his stomach. He didn’t know what to say. It had been years since he’d thought about speaking. The years had passed.
People passed. Suddenly, he had been alone. He had felt loneliness, locked in his little square. Then, there was that knock.
He finally opened the door.
The air felt warm. It had been years since he had opened a door, and the outside tasted beautiful.
And there she was. Skinny, truly just bones with a thin layer of translucent skin stretching over her skeleton. Tangles twisting her hair, eyes that jumped out of her head. Little twitches, tics, movements that implied life in the wild- not hiding in an office eating year old twinkies.
But, strangely, gorgeous.
His tongue moved, it was his first thought, it was his only thought, he wanted to say it, had to say it.
“I love you.”
He was the last man on Earth, but he was certainly not the last person.
Love is that time shared
and never wasted between
you in this lifetime.
She sits in the store, sobs pushed deep in her throat. She’s so close, so close to death and she knows it. I know it too. When her time comes, and I wave a sad bye to her soul that’s tinged with wear, tear and love, will she laugh, like she used to? ‘Fore her knees grew weak and age slowed her steps? And at the end, the last hour, will he cry in her cold hand? Her loved man who left her for a learned, bold girl with red lips and a small waist? Or her now old son, who ran from his cold home at ten? Will they come back to her then, when it’s far too late to say “bye,” and hug and an “I love you?”
Will they come back, with false tears in their eyes and meek words they don’t mean? Or shall they turn their backs on a girl, long past her “good years,” like they once did? Would they know?
As we sit in this store, I stare at her and she, in turn, stares at a blank wall with eyes glazed in wet gloom. My hand holds hers, and I can feel the life fall from it. I clench my hand, watch the veins pop and the bones shift round hers. I wish she could feel it too, feel my warmth on hers and grin a sly grin, a new grin, like she would for that man. I wish she’d turn to me, and take my love and change it to life, so we could stay like this.
But we know, know how close she is. So we wait ‘til her soul’s been reaped and the bad goes good. And I sit there, to wait with her and be there, like she wished her son could…
Hours pass. And then, as if the fates had it all planned out, I see her eyes as they fill with a cool gray and her head falls to the side, soft and slow. A boy starts to scream, and then the store’s a screech and the world’s fast and loud and I can’t stay. Can’t breathe.
Now that she’s left me to haunt this world, lone of love and life, I leave. And I know, at least I’d like to think I know, that she’s up there, with the Lord, a laugh loud in her throat, in the air, like it used to all those years passed.
She was a girl with a missing piece. A half empty cup.
Ultimately, she was the reason I wondered where broken hearts went.
Her name was lyrical, her life the kind that made poems. She loved a man, he left her, she wasted the days wondering why. Not why did he leave, but why did he leave with the tools to mend her? He left with the tape and bandages, packed his first aid kit and glue, stepped out the door and disappeared. He was air and she breathed it in, waiting for him to solidify again and fix the pieces of herself.
She melted into liquid waiting, her being becoming the tears that streamed from her. When she ran out of water, the tears were her fingers, her toes, until she cried herself out and all that remained was a puddle.
She was the embodiment of sorrow.
I was a writing student, in my first year, blocked by my unyielding mind which felt so incredibly inflexible. Stories would not form from the stiff words, tales would not pour out of the bleeding pen. I sat and sat each day, the blank paper looming, yet the ideas never came.
A friend recommended I see her. Not because she was pretty, or because she was unique, but because he felt that sadness was the one thing that truly wrote stories. So he talked of her, and said she lived in a small apartment on the wrong side of town in a bottle of booze she bought at the end of each week.
When I knocked on her door, I was greeted by a ghost.
She was pale, thin, flat like a piece of paper, blowing slightly in the breeze from the door. Anyone who saw her knew she was only partially there. Broken.
It was beautiful.
She became pain in its sharpest, most physical form. I had found that since I could not write, I had grown to hate it, though it was my expression and dedication. In a way, I was broken too.
In December, she took off her clothes. Her half was a puzzle piece, and my half might fill in hers. I hoped. She hoped. I hoped.
I pushed into her in the dark, in the cool room, it was almost silent with dust motes drifting in the air. Silence… We couldn’t fill one another.
Where did broken hearts go? The question resurfacing, an echo in the hollowed cavern.
With us… It was as if two broken hearts met to compare the damage.
When the war broke out, all I could do was listen to those cracks and snaps and bams. They hurt my ears. They hurt my brain. I couldn’t think.
When the war broke out, I wrote letters to my lover. I wanted to put something on paper since my thoughts spilled out of my bleeding ears. I wanted him to respond so I’d know he was breathing somewhere in the noise. I wanted him to breathe.
When the war broke out, I had to go to work. Even though I couldn’t think, and my heart was tight, I had to get up each morning. Work, work, work. I sat in a little factory with hundreds of other women and worked those big machines that pumped out smoke until my hands were sooty and my lungs burned black. My heart was black too.
When the war broke out, we sent out our sons. We sent out our husbands. We sent them out with waving kerchiefs, tears, and a little bag of clothes they’d freeze in. Why did we send them out? I don’t know. But my chest knotted up and my heart burned, and the tears came down.
When the war came closer, my first letter back ripped. My lover, beautiful man, soaked his letter in a smell that once was his passion, but now reeked of smoke. I opened it every day, reminding myself he’s breathing in the noise, and a tear grew on the page. The paper seemed to rip itself to pieces. I sat on the dirty ground where the war was coming, and sobbed.
When the war came closer, men knocked on my door. They did not know me, and I did not know them, but they wanted to stay in my house. I said no, only my lover. Any other man, and the women would think me impure. My lover would hate me when the words came to his ears. But the men burst through my door, and they looked round my house, and chuckled. They laid their feet on my table, where my lover and I used to chat. They came rumbling in, and like a storm where rain drops fall, they stayed forever, though I wished them away.
When the war came even closer, I stopped writing to my lover. My words looked jumbled on paper, and I crossed out sections since he deserved only the good. But only the bad had come. I couldn’t think couldn’t think. I wandered around empty without a soul to care for, as I’d been laid off. All the women had, now that the enemy lay outside our borders and food never came in. We all lost weight; the men in my home, and all other homes, ate what little we had, and my bed was never slept in. My heart burned darker than black.
When the war was on our doorstep, the men moved from my home. They took what they liked, and left with a word they thought said, “It’s okay, we’re soldiers,” but meant, “It’s not okay, we’re thieves.” They set up cannons. I locked my doors. I ran to my bed, which no longer felt like a bed. I covered my ears and screamed in the hopes that the burns on my heart would move up my throat and into the air. Leave me. Leave me. My face was wet, the noise raged on, and my heart was still darker than black.
I cried out my heart.
When the war ended, my lover’s last letter came. We’d lost, so the mail ran slow, but it finally came. It was from the army, saying he’d died a year ago. Without my heart, my thoughts, and my lover, I hung my empty carcass on the porch’s chair to watch as the sun was rising.