I miss her all wrong
My dad called me today, and the first thing he said was, “You haven’t been returning my calls,” as if I didn’t already know that. After, he asked me to come home. He wants me to take a semester off. He wants to look after me. And I told him that I want to be alone, which isn’t true, and I lit a cigarette even though I don’t smoke, and I yanked viciously at the hair behind my ear, wincing. I’m turning into her without meaning to. My body has absorbed her tendencies, so that I’ll never be alone again.
“I know what you’re going through, son,” he told me. “I know that you’re probably too young to remember what it was like when your mother left, but I know. I can understand what you’re going through.”
I hung up the phone slowly, very gently, wondering how long it would take him to realize that I wasn’t on the other end. She used to do this to me sometimes, and when I called her back, hurt and confused, she’d laugh at me. I tried to laugh like she would, but it sounded like a cough. My mother is living with her new family in Detroit, her handsome husband and her pretty little daughters. Sometimes, she still sends me colourful postcards.
Last night I fell asleep clutching her photo album and I woke up with bruises where it touched my chest.
Today, it has been three weeks since the funeral. Last night I dreamt of her, just like I always do. When I woke up, she was my first thought, the way she is every other morning. I closed my eyes and after a moment of trying, I conjured a perfect painting of her face in my mind, even her crooked teeth and scarred chin. I am faithful in my recreation. I thought that these things would fade by now, but they haven’t. I’m losing faith that they ever will. There are some things that we’re not meant to forget, and that girl, she was one of them.
With every day that passes, I gather more regrets. I never thought that I’d have any, I promised myself that I wouldn’t, but time teaches me to be more critical. She used to ask me to skip lecture with her on Friday afternoons, but I never would. She’d ask me to pick her up at night, and if it was after midnight, I wouldn’t bother. I’d tell her to wait till morning. She’d send me text messages of song lyrics and poem stanzas, and, unsure of the appropriate response, I never replied. Not until she said something else. I didn’t kiss her in public enough. I should never have twisted my hand out of hers for something as trivial as switching the song on my iPod. I should have stayed awake to watch her sleep. I should have filled her room with roses. Should have picked her up and spun her as we kissed.
I know that I couldn’t have stopped what happened. She was slipping over the edge long before I met her. The first time she stripped away her clothes in front of me, she was shaking. She tried to hide the scars that criss crossed her tiny body. The ones on her chest were risen and white. She had carved the initials of everyone who had ever hurt her across her belly. Including my own. The word ALONE stretched over her hip, distended by the ridge of her bone. FUCK UP flared purple and swollen across one thigh; FAILURE marked the other. A neat lace work of thin, pale lines decorated her left arm from wrist to elbow. I was horrified, and she knew, and she begged me to tell her that she was beautiful. But I couldn’t find the words. I’d found them so many times before, but in that moment, when she needed them most, I was frozen. She was already hovering, teetering, barely managing to balance. I could never have been enough to hold her.
Now that she’s gone, I find that I have to count the reasons to get out of bed in the morning. I lie in the patch of sun that she had once claimed her own, staring at the ceiling, trying to remember that there are good things in my life. Sometimes, it doesn’t come, and I turn off my alarm clock and I go back to sleep. I pull the blankets over my head so that I don’t have to stare at the room that she existed in, once. I press my face into the pillow until I cant breathe, until the pressure builds behind my eyes and I’m dizzy enough to pretend that I can still smell her conditioner in the sheets. There are so few things good things these days. Warm weather. Cheap food. Sympathetic professors.
She took everything with her. The smell of her hair. The glow of her skin. Her smile. Her slender, grasping arms. The skip in her walk. Her quiet voice. The way she kissed me. The soft, sweet sleep-sounds that she made. Every little thing. The pieces that are left behind seem so trivial, now, even the ones that were once so glaringly important. I don’t care about going to class. I don’t care about getting to work on time. I don’t care about eating, or cutting my hair. So I just go back to bed. I navigate my dreams and I pretend that the world isn’t passing by without us. I make believe that it’s standing still for her. Waiting for her like I am.
It has to stop soon, though. I know that. I’m getting too skinny and my homework is piling up. I‘m running out of sick days, and I can‘t afford to get fired. My father is worried that I‘m killing myself. It’s only appropriate to be sad for so long. After a while, it just makes people uncomfortable. After a while, they’re just waiting for you to be normal again. Like they are. One thing I learned when I lost her is that the world won’t end just because you ask it to.
To be honest, I think things would be easier if it did.
When I think about the night that we met, I can’t help but think that she deserved better. She deserved something romantic, a beautiful moment to hold onto. She deserved a love story, and I didn’t give it to her. I thought it was something that we’d be able to laugh about in twenty years, but she won’t be here in twenty years, and it’s not something that I can laugh at alone. Not now. I wish I’d given her more than I did. Maybe if I could have changed things, just that one night, it would have been enough to make her happy.
We met in my first week of university. She had already been there a year, and had moved on from the dorms, living alone in a small apartment downtown. But I didn’t know that yet. All I knew was that there was a party down the hall with open doors. I hadn’t been invited, but it seemed as if no one had, as if the entire dorm floor was flooding towards the room and its pounding music pulse. So I slipped in with them, basking in what I saw as my first true moment of freedom. A cold bottle was pressed into my hand as a guy I’d never met grabbed my shoulder and laughed so hard that I missed his name. I know it now; that guy was Kyle Watts, and without him, I might have never had her. He still lives down the hall. I could go and knock on his door, and ask him if she was better or worse before she met me. I could ask him if he had ever longed for her, if he had asked her there that night because he wanted her. Did I steal her away? I could tell him everything that happened because of that night. I could tell him about the gift he gave me. But he wouldn’t understand. He would give me that patient, pitying look.
This is my burden.
I went to that party because I had no friends and I wanted some. I went because they were playing the Beatles, and I could hear it even with my door closed. I stayed because the beer was free, and because it seemed like every person I met was incredibly happy to see me. The room was small, the people crammed inside, laughing and sweating and pressed together. More and more kept coming, until it seemed like all of the breathable air was gone, and my view got blurry and damp. Everyone was happy and smiling and dancing, except for her.
She was perched on one of the narrow beds, the only one in the room who was sitting. Her legs were crossed under her, hidden beneath a long cotton skirt. One bruised knee escaped the shroud, the purple patch of skin looking sick and diseased in the dull yellow lights. Her hands rested in her lap, wrapped loosely around an un-opened beer bottle. The glass was sweating at her touch, fat glistening beads of moisture that dampened her legs, so that her achingly thin skirt turned transparent and clung to her thigh.
It took me a while to notice her, sitting alone, leaning against the wall and smiling mutely at the people who stood near her. I watched as a small group turned towards her, encircling the bed as they tried to draw her into conversation. I watched her through the haze of my sixth beer, they way that she smiled and nodded, but never parted her lips. I watched them give up on her and move away, and the way that her heartbreak shone as bright as headlights through her eyes. A part of me I’d never met before swore vehemently that I’d never do that to her. She was already smiling up at another group of people, one that hadn’t noticed her yet. Her face had turned away from me.
I had an urge to cross the room. I wanted to sit beside her, offer to open her beer, and tell her how beautiful the curl of her hair was. Instead, I gulped down the rest of my drink and I waited to be offered another.
I stood alone and watched her as she watched everyone else. I barely noticed the subtle shift in her features that led from smile to frown. She started pleating a small fold of her skirt in her fingers, her beer still unopened, now resting on the pillow beside her thigh. A line appeared between her eyebrows as her frown deepened. Her eyes started to gleam as her shivering lips pressed into a tight line.
I should have left my beer on the desk as I pushed past a few clumsy dancers to get to her. Instead, when I dropped down beside her, I forgot the bottle in my hand. The neck tilted down, and a bubbling river poured into her lap. I stared at the growing puddle, unable to move; unable to speak. Finally, I lifted my gaze to her enraged face.
Her mouth opened and closed, and pressed tight again. She looked at me with vicious eyes. “Thank you for that,” she hissed between her teeth. The words hit me like a punch in the gut. I reached for her immediately, grabbing clumsily for her skirt, lifting it up off of her legs as she slapped my arms and squealed, begging me to stop.
“I’m sorry,” I said earnestly, clutching to the fabric, trying to ring out the beet as she twisted away from me, pressing into the wall and shoving my shoulders.
Her strength was surprising.
I stared mutely from the far side of the bed, searching for words that wouldn’t come. I said again, “I’m sorry.”
She stared at me for a tense moment as the party moved on around us. And then she sighed, dropping her eyes as she fanned her skirt with both hands. “It’s okay,” she said gently, “You didn’t mean to.”
I nodded gratefully, and for the third time, I told her, “I’m sorry.”
She glanced up at me, and she smiled. “Don’t worry about it. It’s not that great of a skirt anyways.”
I swallowed thickly as I sat back down. She didn’t say anything. She stared at me, the smile gone, her amber irises swimming with threads of pale yellow. There was far too much power in her gaze for a nineteen year old girl. It was like a weight on my chest. I said the only thing I could think of.
“I’m Shawn Hailman.”
She said nothing, with those eyes burrowing into me. A bead of sweat started a slow crawl down the back of my neck, and I was sure that she knew about it. There were too many people in that room, and she was stealing my air.
I leaned closer to hear, and she leaned in to meet me. “I feel sick,” I said, louder than I needed to.
She frowned, pulling back in distaste. “Are you going to throw up?”
My stomach roiled at the thought. “I don’t know.”
She sighed heavily. “Do you want me to take you to the bathroom?”
My pride shrivelled and died under her pity. But I nodded. “Please.”
Sighing again, she crawled to the edge of the bed and then stretched out her scrawny legs to stand. “Come on,” she said, reaching out her hand.
My heart fluttered as my fingers found hers; how cliche. She pulled me to my feet and I let her lead me through the throng and out into the cool, quiet air of the hallway. There, as the door closed behind me, she let go of my hand.
“Come on,” she said again, and she floated away. I followed on my heavy, graceless feet.
When we reached the bathroom door, she held it open for me, and for some reason I was scandalized when she followed me in.
“What are you doing?”
She stared at me incredulously. “Really? Nobody cares. Would you rather sit in here alone?”
Chagrined, I shook my head and trudged into the nearest stall like a beaten dog. I heard the sink start, and the slap of wet fabric as she started to wash away the stains I had left. I dropped with a thud to the floor beside the toilet, and I leaned my head back against the wall. A moment later she joined me, locking the stall door behind her before she sat against the opposite wall. She asked gently, “Are you okay?”
Embarrassed, I nodded.
“Good. Shawn, right?”
Again, I nodded.
She smiled at me. She was so beautiful. “I’m Anna,” she said, and I smiled back.
We never did anything right.
She had nightmares. She never did tell me what they were about, or why they made her sweat and gasp the way that she did, but some nights, I’d fall asleep with my arms around her, her tiny frame moulding to my chest, and hours later, she’d start to scream so loud that she choked on them, or she’d start to fight against me, biting and clawing, or she’d start to shake so badly that the reverberations through her body would wake me up. I’d hold her, and say things like “it’s just a dream,” and “I’m here” and she never said anything. She always let me know that it wasn’t good enough.
Some nights she would set the alarm on her cell phone, so that it would wake her up just a few hours after she fell asleep, before the dreams could take such a solid hold over her. She always switched off the alarm before it could wake me, hiding the screen with her palm so that the light wouldn’t touch my face.
Somehow, she managed to get out of bed every night without waking me up. She’d stumble around in the dark, plugging in the kettle and scooping instant coffee into clean mugs as she waited for it to bowl. She would sit at my desk and doodle on the top with permanent markers. They’re still there now, a reminder that will last until some new soul claims this room at the end of the semester, or until a well meaning janitor scrubs them away with bleach.
A moment later, she would pour the hot water, and the smell that filled the room would wake me in a way that sound never could.
We’d sit up together until sunrise. She’d drag the desk chair across the room, beside the open window, blowing cigarette smoke into the night. Sometimes, once the sun had finished its bloody climb into the sky, we’d wrap each other in comforters and curl up together on the floor as I coaxed her back to sleep for a few more hours. Other days, we’d crawl back to bed with the taste of morning still on our tongues, and we’d find oblivion together in the sheets.
Now, for some reason, it’s those nights that I miss the most. My body doesn’t understand. It yearns for sleepless nights and solemn gifts of caffeine.
Sometimes I wake in the dark and I swear I can smell the coffee. I’ll stretch out my arms and throw my feet onto the floor. I’ll cross the room, where my kettle rests on the tabletops. I’ll look around for a few minutes, wondering where she is. I turn on my heel, glance around the room, feel the first tendrils of panic–
And then I remember that she’s dead.
She emailed me naked pictures of herself once. She called and woke me in the middle of the night, using a smokey voice she had learned from old movie stars. “Wake up,” she crooned, and I imagined dark red lipstick and those hard, stiff flapper curls. “Turn on your computer.”
“And then what?” I asked her, the anticipation building, my blood rushing. I ached for her.
“Check your email,” she whispered, her words kissing the receiver. And then she hung up on me. I tangled my legs and almost split open my skull in my mad rush to the desk and the secrets my computer suddenly held.
The only email waiting for me was from her. No subject, no message, just thirteen attachments; what a prophetic fucking number. I should have known.
The photos were clumsy. She took them in her living room, with no room mates to interrupt her as she fought with her digital camera. She was wearing too much make up, just like I thought she would, her lips glistening like apple skin and her eye lashes clotted with mascara. She was trying too hard to pose, and she had the lyrics to my favourite song written all over her skin. My name marched across her chest, in marker this time. My hands moved towards my waist, kept creeping lower, until I groaned as if she was with me.
After the funeral, when my well-meaning friends had finally retreated, I pulled my laptop onto my knees, and I clicked open the folder that I had hidden so carefully. I went through them slowly, staring at every detail until my face was smothered with salt and I pawed at the shape of her on the screen. And then, I deleted them, one at a time, and I made sure that I could never get them back.
I can still see them painted on the inside of my eyes; frescos that are plastered into my very anatomy. The way that the smudged ink melted into her skin, sliding over her bones. My name sinking into her heart, the ink poisoning her in a way neither one of us could see. It makes me crazy.
I don’t know what I’d do if I still had them. I think of her half closed eyes, the high colour in her cheeks; the pucker of her lips and the tangle of her hair. It makes me ache. It cuts me up from the inside out – I wish I had them, but I wouldn’t survive seeing them. My sanity saved me before it deserted for good.
She had a constant kind of panic that hid inside her eyes. Her scars left her skin thick and uneven, but so soft in my hands. If I could find a marker, I’d scribble the story of us all over my body. Bright red. I want to carve her memories into me. I think I’d like that; her ghost hovering in the corner, watching me use a razor blade so clumsily, when she had become so adept with hers. She would smile at me. She would guide my hands. Forgive my mistakes.
And this is how I remember her. I miss her all wrong.
Each morning, she crawled to the foot of the bed, and she would stretch her arms over her head as I watched the pull and twist of the tight muscles in her shoulders. She would scrub at her hair with both hands, igniting it to a frizzy cloud around her head before she flattened it back down. Her skin glowed in the semi-darkness of morning. When she stood, her legs always shaky for the first steps, I could spot the secrets hiding in the damp bend of her knees.
Wondering with aimless steps, she’d twist her hair up off of her shoulders. The sun kissed the golden down that grew on the back of her neck as she tied her tangles into a graceless knot. She kept bobby pins wedged into the frame of my mirror, and she’d pull two down to hold back her bangs, bearing her face and her arching forehead. Only then would she turn back to me, her eyes still half closed as she smiled. Usually she came back to bed. We’d lean against the headboard and crawl all over each other as we waited for the day to start. She’d scream with laughter and yank handfuls of my hair as I chewed on her skin.
Sometimes, though, mornings were hard for her. Sometimes the thought of stepping outside my door and back into the world was enough to reduce her to tears.
A few weeks before she died, she turned to me in the morning and she wasn’t smiling. She wrapped her arms around her waist like an embarrassed child, and her face collapsed under the weight of her own sadness. She tried to say something; I saw her lips move, but the words wouldn’t come. And I was frozen. I screamed at myself to go to her, I berated myself violently, wishing I could break my own bones. But I still didn’t move. Her tears started to flow as I watched, and even when she sobbed, I simply sat and stared. It wasn’t until she dropped to her knees and let her head hit the floor that I finally got my feet under me. And even then, I moved with sluggish steps. It seemed to take an eternity to get to her, as if her misery slowed time to a crawl. Finally, though, I reached her. She was there, at my feet. Hold her, my mind told me. Wrap her up in your body. Show her.
But I had never been in love before. I was so afraid. So I laid my hand awkwardly on her shoulder, and I rubbed her back as I leaned my head against hers.
“Come on,” I said gently, trying to pull her to her feet. “You need to go back to bed.”
She looked at me with wet, wild eyes, gasping for air behind the tangled cage of her hair. “I’m sorry baby,” she cried out, reaching for me with both hands. She pulled my face close to hers, clutching handfuls of fabric and flesh. “I’m sorry. I wish I was stronger. I’m so fucking weak.” She collapsed against me, a shaking ball of muscle and tendon.
I sighed. Sadness is tiring. I knew this, before I took hers on.
“What do you mean baby?”
“I wish I was strong enough to end it,” she whispered, burying her face in my chest, hiding her eyes from mine. “I can’t even fucking kill myself right.”
To protect myself from those words, I set up cold, hard distance. I could hear the callousness in my own flat voice as I locked my hand around her wrist and stood, pulling her with me even as she cried out in surprise.
“Come on,” I told her, “Let’s go back to bed.”
And she went with me. We took a funeral march back to my bed, and I tucked her in like a child before I crawled under the sheets beside her. I closed my eyes, and wished sound could be blocked as easily as sight as she cried to herself beside me.
She was reaching for me, and I had swatted away her hand. It was just so hard for me to accept the truth. I couldn’t believe that she was so miserable, that I wasn’t enough to make her happy.
And so I pretended that she was fine, every day, until the very last.
I wanted to give her everything.
From the first moment I saw her, I decided that she deserved the world, but I didn’t know how to give it to her. I tried so hard, but she still needed more. There was never enough to keep her happy, to satiate the beast that lurked in the back of her mind. She never really trusted me. She was never really happy; I couldn’t give her that.
Even when it seemed okay, even when she spent her days laughing and smiling and turning her shining eyes on me, she still needed more. She still glanced over her shoulder like a caged animal. Her lips still bowed down when she thought I wasn’t looking.
She was a constant struggle, and I was willing to suffer through it, but the time came when I ran out of ways to fight
“Make it better,” she said, and I tried, I tried. But she said, “No. Make it better.”
So I did the only thing that I could.
There are still nights when I miss her so much that it’s hard to bear, when I can feel her absence as a weight on my chest. So that I can’t breathe, so that my heart struggles to beat. I wake up alone in the dark and I can see her everywhere. I can feel the shape of her beside me, the warmth of her breath at the back of my neck, her tiny hands on my shoulders. I can see her in the shadows at every corner, her face in the folds of the sheets. I can smell her hair and very nearly hear her voice, and it makes me so lonely that my stomach roils and my throat feels so tight that it might burst.
And on nights like those, I want something. I don’t know what; it’s like a hunger that I can never feed. A deep, gaping hole that will always be empty. I don’t know what I need. I just need. I need a stranger to take my hair in their fists and yank, pull my head back until I can’t breathe. I need someone to suck my lips and hit me harder than I can stand. I want to see the vessels burst under my skin. I need to cling to someone and bite, harder, harder, harder, until their skin splits and the blood flows hot and salty down my throat. I need to go out into the night, find a seedy bar, say something stupid. Bump a stranger. Start a fight. Tear someone apart. Step out in front of a speeding truck. Anything.
But before I do it, I think of her. I wonder if this is how she felt. And then I start to cry.
Yesterday, when my alarm went off, I didn’t think to count the reasons to get out of bed. I swatted the clock off of my nightstand, kicked the blankets to the foot of the bed, and stood nearly naked in the morning air. The blood rushed out of my head, leaving me dizzy and breathless, and without waiting for my thoughts to clear I bent to step out of my boxers. I tipped forward, with no hands to catch myself, and my forehead hit the hard floor. I picked myself up slowly, I knelt, and listened to the pain sing.
I dressed quickly, and I reached into the box on my desk for a granola bar as I headed out the door. I flew down the three flights of stairs and out into the lobby, pausing in the blinding light. It was as if I hadn’t seen the sun in years. Outside, there was a chill in the air, and it made me smile as I unlocked my bike and carried it out of the courtyard. It felt good to be moving. I straddled the bike and started to peddle. Usually, I take the bus to work.
After twenty minutes of thoughtless mechanics, beautiful numbness, I missed a turn I need to take. But instead of turning around, I rode my bike out of town. I found long stretches of road that I didn’t recognize, peddling faster and faster, until my legs ached. The pavement turned to gravel, and bright, leafy trees closed in on me. I laughed at the new world I had found. I kept going until I was exhausted, until there was sweat streaming down my back and I could hardly breathe, and then I left my bike in the ditch. I wandered into the field I had stopped beside, and I fell down in the corn, staring at the sun through the stalks. After a moment, my breath to came easy, and my heart stopped pounding. I rolled onto my side and fell asleep without thinking of her. I didn’t wake up until night fall.
It’s okay to be me, sometimes. To be honest, it still feels pretty damn good. Today, there is a purple bruise blooming beautifully above my eye.
My dad called me today, and the first thing he said was, “You haven’t been returning my calls,” as if I didn’t already know that. I looked out the window at the setting sun, lighting up the sky with bloody fire, and I listened to him talk until I couldn’t stand it anymore.
And he said “Yeah?”
I shook my head, just for me. “Me and her, we were terrible together. I told her that once. I said to her, ‘I know that you make me angry sometimes, and that I make you cry sometimes.’ I said, ‘We’re a total disaster and everyone knows it, but we were made for each other.’ And i think I meant it. Do you know what I mean, dad? She was like a burning building to me, and I think it was the same for her. You look at it, and you know that it’s dangerous, and people keep telling you to just go home, that there’s nothing to see, but you’ve already caught a glimpse. And its just so damn beautiful that you have to get closer.”
Sounding overwhelmed and confused, he said, “Shawn…” and I shook my head again.
I said, “I’m sorry, dad.” And then I hung up the phone.
She didn’t like to talk about her life. A listener, an observer, she was never a storyteller. When it was clear that she knew everything there was to know about me, I was sure that I had learned absolutely nothing about her. Every time she offered a glimpse into her past, it was like a gift. Every offhand comment about the boys who broke her heart or the girls who threw their garbage at her was precious; I filed them away like video reels. She didn’t want to give me her past, but I needed it, I craved it, like a drug. I needed to know as much about her as she knew about me. I needed to make her real.
A few days before she died, we were sitting on my bed going through old photo albums. I showed her pictures from a camping trip I had taken when I was twelve or thirteen, when our campground had been over run with squirrels. They crawled into our hands and onto our shoulders, sitting while they ate. They seemed to know to pose for the cameras. They were performers.
She had laughed at the pictures of my dad buried up to his neck at the beach; had smiled at the pictures of me covered in melted marshmallows. When I came across a picture of a red squirrel sitting on my head, a shelled peanut held in its tiny paws, I was sure that she would like it. I would have let her keep it, if she had asked. With a smile, I offered it to her, and watched as she looked closer, waiting for her to react. But the smile faded from her face very slowly. It seemed to melt, as if it had never been there at all.
“Cute,” she mumbled, tossing the photo into my lap and dropping her eyes.
I didn’t know what to say. She looked up at me, forcing a tense smile, waiting for me to keep going, but I couldn’t. I had to understand. I knew that she wanted to tell me, even if she wouldn’t admit it on her own, and so for the first time, I pried. She wanted me to. She was letting me in deeper, the only way that she knew how.
So I said, “What’s wrong?”
She dropped her eyes, shook her head minutely. “I used to catch squirrels that looked just like those when I was younger.”
I almost laughed. Almost. “How the hell did you catch squirrels?”
But she was stoic. “I found traps in my old shed.”
Some strange instinct tried to warm me, chilling my stomach, but I didn’t listen. “Did you try to keep them as pets?”
She turned her wide eyes on me, shaking her head slowly. “No.” She frowned deeply, starting to twist a thin lock of hair around her fingers. She yanked on it viciously, her head jerking to the side with the force. But finally, she said, “I killed them. I set out traps and I caught them and then I drowned them.”
Words disappeared. language became meaningless. I could see her like a silent movie, reaching into the rusted cages. Young and scrawny, the way that I had seen her in photos, her dark hair falling into her eyes. i could see her sink a thrashing ball of fur under the water in a hard plastic kiddie pool. Holding them under. I shook my head, certain that I had misheard her.
I opened my mouth with no sound. It took time to remember where I had hidden my voice. “What?”
She put her hand on my knee gently, as if she were afraid that I would push her away. She looked up at me with huge eyes, suddenly swimming with the threat of tears. “I didn’t do it because I wanted to, it wasn’t for me.” She paused, her nails digging into my skin even through my jeans. Clutching me, clinging to anything real. “You believe me, right? I didn’t do it for me. It wasn’t like that.”
All I could feel was her claws in my leg, and it made me wonder if she had felt the rodent claws tearing at her wrists, begging for air.
“They were in our backyard all the time,” she said. “They’d come right up to the windows and put their feet on the glass, and at first I thought it was fun, but there eyes, Shawn. They started looking at me with those little black eyes, and they just looked so sad. I tried everything, but nothing made it better, they always just looked at me with those eyes. I had to.”
I stared at her, at her face that was dissolving into hopeless tears. And here’s the really fucked up part. Looking at her? I understood.
“They were so sad, Shawn,” she whispered. “They were so sad, and I didn’t know what else to do.”
Alyssa Cooper is a born wordweaver, swallowing stanzas like sustenance and leaving thumbnails of poetry everywhere she goes. She was born in Belleville Ontario, where she lives with her vintage typewriters and her personal library. She is the author of two novels, Benjamin and Salvation, and a collection of poetry called Cold Breath of Life.