For You, For Keeps

The writer sits in her designated writing spot. Well, her new designated writing spot. She’s had three in the last year, but a change of scenery is supposed to be a good thing for the mind.

The backspace key is worn, rickety on its plastic arms, waiting to fall off at just the wrong time. The letter M is faded, rubbed away by hundreds of failed presses. The period stands stark and strong. Waiting.

Her dog sighs in the corner. She looks up just as thunder rolls across the dusk sky. Clouds shiver in its wake. The writer pinches the bridge of her nose.

A silver chain trails across her mind’s eye. A long silver pendant, embossed with their saying. You’re my person. A gift, wrapped in a silver box, carefully chosen, but eventually forgotten.

You’re my person. Declarative, possessive. But ultimately useless.

The writer sets her fingers to the keyboard for the final time that day.

M,
The silence you gave me is all I hear now. 

The writer pounds the backspace key. It holds on, its grip tenuous. She begins again.

M,
How could you?

Backspace, backspace, backspace.

M,
You were my person, but was I yours?

Backspace.

M,
I miss you. 

 

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Sunday Morning

As a child, you imagined that clouds were solid and that tomorrows would always come. On Sunday mornings, you’d watch planes drag lazily across the sky. You couldn’t understand how pilots could be so skilled. How do they dodge the clouds, mommy? Shut up and stop asking questions. You’d nod but you’d still wonder about those amazing pilots. Skulls and crossbones mean pirates and poison, but it seemed that mommy forgot which bottles were which because her pirate juice, the one that made her words sound funny and her snores loud like thunder, it was full but the poison left a dried ring of froth around her mouth. Tomorrow didn’t come for mommy, but she must be living on a cloud now. On the top, you know, so you can’t see her, but she’s still there. 

A lawyer now, you lost the magic of solid clouds and pirate juice. You know our mother left you. She couldn’t help it, they say. She was ill, they say. You know, they say, pointing to their heads and turning their fingers around imaginary locks of hair. You nod, pennies filling the back of your throat and dwindling from your bank account. 

Sunday mornings are quiet as death now. You imagine death is actually quiet. No more screaming babies on the subway, no more overheard arguments through thinning, half-eaten drywall. Just quiet. And dark. Like those sensory deprivation tanks, only you can’t be deprived of senses if you don’t have them. Just like your mother believed she couldn’t have her life stolen out from under her, ruined by a child she never wanted, if she didn’t have a life.

Rosebush

There is nothing kind about pretending to love someone
long after you’ve forgotten what their voice sounds like
on sleepy, coffee-scented Sunday mornings.

There is nothing authentic about excuses dripping in guilt.

You know this.

Yet somehow, you’ve decided the rosebush blooming next to your door,
the one that caresses your doorstep with blood-red petals
even when it hurts to let them fall,
is inconvenient.

“The thorns hurt,” you say, but you haven’t seen the thorns in years.

What really hurts is knowing that you planted the rosebush there –
lifetimes ago, it seems –
but now you can’t bear to look at it

because it reminds you of the time you almost died.

Death or Dream

Afternoon. Sun. Grass.

Baseball. Laughter.

But wait. Look up.

A plane. No wings. Plummeting.

Move.

CRASH.

But wait. Look again.

It’s his plane.

His. His. His.

Mine.

No. I can’t.

Change scene.

Grocery store. Checkout line. Paper or plastic?

Oranges thump across the conveyor belt.

A child cries. Annoyance.

But wait. Think again.

See him. Alive. Not dead.

Him. Him. Him.

Mine.

Find him. Go back.

Change scene.

Wreckage. Smoke. Coughing.

Silence.

Sweat-tracks through dirt-stained skin.

Breathless.

Find him.

Large metal debris screech.

Him. Him. Him.

Dead.

Symptoms of a Haunting: Part VI

The crackling from the fire died down as its fuel was slowly consumed. The stench of burning flesh singed my nostrils and I fought the urge to wretch. I couldn’t believe that Edna was gone.

Suddenly, the incriminating nature of my position struck me. I was in Edna’s house, alone with her burnt corpse laying in the large grate of the fire like a beacon pointing to my guilt. I stood shakily, gripping the couch beside me for balance, but it was too late to leave. Blue and red lights flashed across the windows, but I was still too stunned for panic.

Edna was gone. I stood in the smoke for a moment, unable to remember where I was going.

A heavy pounding at the door pulled my from my dissociative reverie. I stepped carefully toward the foyer and pulled the door open, blinking in the sudden onslaught of daylight. How long had I been here?

“Ma’am,” a police officer began, his hair shining raven-black in the white sun. I raised my gaze slowly, taking in his boots and uniform, his gun belt, his glimmering nameplate reading “M. Emerson,” and, finally, his dark brown eyes peering from his hooded brow.

“Ma’am, are you okay?” M. Emerson asked, extending his hard to me and if he could hold the weight pressing me down.

I bit down on my lip, feeling blood break the surface. “No… No, I don’t think I am.”

Then everything was nothing.

I awoke slowly, taking in the beeps and smell of disinfectant that filled the air around me. I am in a hospital. Muffled voices came closer and clearer, then passed into obscurity again. I heard curtains around me shift and continued to feign sleep. Several pairs of feet filed into the area surrounding my bed. A man’s voice spoke softly, briefing the other individuals on my condition. He had to be the teacher.

After a lot of medical jargon I didn’t fully understand, the man asked, “What makes this woman so unique?” Fabrics rubbed against each other swiftly as each medical student’s hand sprung into the air. A girl spoke, her voice pitched too high to be even remotely soothing. “Her brain activity is significantly higher than we usually see. This could suggest mental illness or a brain injury.”

“Good, Jen. What is the treatment plan?”

Jen spoke again. God, her voice was grating. “She will be kept here for observation and testing.”

“Correct. Jen, move on with the other and see to the next patient. I want to check this woman’s vitals again.”

Curtains shifted again as the pairs of feet made their exits. The man lowered himself into a chair next to me, his knees cracking with the effort.

He sat there for a moment, his steady breathing making it difficult for me to keep my own the same way; it was unnerving. Finally, he spoke, sending chills down my spine. “I know what you are, Jane Doe. Now I get to see what you can do.”

Death Rattle

Charles Winslow was an old man with stone lungs
and a heart hell-bent on bringing him to a cemetery to rest.

Charles Winslow’s heart stuttered like a child reading aloud
to the class and stopped dead last Tuesday.

His papery skin fluttered delicately with his last exhalation,
expelling a lifetime of cobwebs and solitude.

Dust settled on lamps and newspapers, coating his shell
and his dwelling in skin cells deader than he.

Sand continued to pile in the hourglass. Weeks flashed by
like an old film. Charles Winslow’s corpse danced with

maggots until his pearly, porous bones smiled garishly at the dust-
coated room. Still the house remained

devoid.

Bodies in the Back Room

There are dozens of bodies in your back room.
You try to keep the door closed, but sometimes
their memories pry the barriers open and climb into
your bed and your brain, just like they used to.

I wonder where they came from, but simultaneously
try not to imagine anything at all. 

I wonder if you murmured the same scarlet words
under cover of covers and velvety blackness.

I wonder if your skin met theirs in just that way,
creating an electricity that I believed was just for me.

I wonder if I’ll just become another body in the back room.