Later, in the police station, you will open my palm and kiss it. I will not notice the blood print on my hand.
I will want to go with you to the ER, but the officers will say no.
Get down, bitch.
I turn, by angstrom, a slow parabola to face you. Your eyes open as a goldfish, hands up like two gills at the side of your face, there is a jaundiced man behind you. Beads of blood break where knife licks skin.
The piece of me between my ears moves backward to other broken memories.
(I knew a girl once. She stayed at school too late. The military man put his machete on her desk. The military man put his eyes on her chest. The military man put his hands on her neck. The military man put his tongue on her lips. Twist, twist, twist, she unscrews like a bottle top, unwrapped like a Tootsie pop.)
Later, under bright bulbs, hard stares, they will take you to a box with grey metal walls and I will begin to cry again because I won’t be able see you, and they will scold me hush hush. Won’t they know, that I will need to see you?
I watch you be lowered bound
metal to neck. Your body bends as if we are back on the dock,
as if we are back on the beach and you are showing off,
giving me back flips into the ocean. I feel my feet move, I watch them kick forward, through night, through water, my hands held before my heart in supplication, holiness,
the Host before the Priest. I reason. I plead.
I pretend I can save us.
The knife lifts from you and points to me. He tells me lay on the ground. On my knees, I show him shiny exoskeletons of beetles we carry on our backs, cases of glass and canvas. This is the cargo for our other life. The one that beats on, and on, on the opposite side of the mirror.
(I knew a girl once. She was late for dinner. The chair banged against the wall. The table bit her belly button. Two tan tattooed arms choked infinity into her breast. Mary-Jane fingers played piano with her zippers.)
Later, you will tuck my hair behind my ears, over the telephone that buzzes and snaps and my mother will play steel in the notes of her voice, and say only, “come home, home come, time to come here, home.”
My father will not speak to me. He will be weeping.
I tell the man who holds you that everything is okay, even though you are beneath his feet and my earth has stopped turning, I tell this man that we are listening, that if he lets you go I will do what he asks of me, I tell this man I tell him to let you go and he has a knife pointed at me, and he tells me he will kill you he will kill me and it will be easy to take away the breath from our bodies with a quick snip, a thin slit and the air will be let free from the balloons of being, the knife is at me and you are beside me, and we are kneeling, we are kneeling in the cat-eye light thrown by the street lamp. I plead. I cajole. I soothe. Wet grass bleeds into my jeans like gasoline over asphalt.
(I knew a girl once. She did not cry for help. She wondered, wandered, waded in the water of cold pipes and green gutters, as the military man slipped hands in and out of raincoat pockets. She made lists of words in her hair, Rubik’s cubes of memory and remembering. Disarm, now and stale body on cold body. Reheat the rice. Check the smoke alarm. Blossoms on the hibiscus rot, overripe plums,
drop. I would like to tell that girl that it is almost over)
as I promise this man, eyes crossed and lost, addled by substance and situation,
that everything is ok.
(I knew a girl once who was not ok.)
Later, you will curl your head into my lap, and I will run fingers through your hair, over your lips, across the sharp line scabbing on your neck. You will slip your hands underneath the wet cotton of my t-shirt, over my belly and up, up and I will lift off your clothes, and
we will press skin to skin, iron to fabric to heat to steam, wound as a bobbin to thread,
and there can be no doubt that we are alive.
You will be alive.
I repeat to the man who holds us under the light of no light:
We have given you what you have asked for.
Please let us go.
(Please let her go.)
And then quite as slowly and as quickly as the seed kernel pops and throws up its sprout as the women toss their hands up in the house of God, there are running footsteps and bouncing beams of clumsy light cutting through an orange night.
Police; they make thunder with their lungs and
lightning with their guns.
The man with the knife, who wraps our lives in his fist, boa wraps a rabbit, lifts his bicycle, draws his knife in an arch above us. The air ripples, vibrations slip summer breeze,
above our heads, bullets pound,
steady as a pulse.
Thump, thump, crack, snap.
Gaze frost, time shrink, day stretch, hours caught in cat’s cradle, grow like a starfish, collapse like a clam. A curtain jerked off its rod, a veil burns, laws of men dead refuted, gravity broke, yesterdays wheel into today into tomorrow into today into tomorrow into. I wear fairy wings, a sea salt dress made of sky and ozone. I can balance
on clay bowls of dirty earth.
Here, I find my paintbrushes, waterlogged watercolors; dribbling together now dead mud and old pie, frozen fire, jade lye, rust log, a mossy ladybug caught in the gas can ditch.
Your eyes are button brown.
I cannot (I knew a girl) oh no, save (that girl in that chair from the military man) the girl who died months ago and thought she was resurrected,
I cannot remove the proverbial blade from the sinew of her neck, those lips stained by sugar cane and backyard hooch. I fail to raise her voice to ask for help. I cannot even summon whatever force of grit or gravel is requisite to demand that man
drink the liquor of his sin. I’m sorry.
Later still, many months later, almost a full planet turn, you and I will not write letters anymore. We will pretend we’ve lost each other’s bracelet, headphones, phone numbers. We will not say goodbye at the airport, at the bus stop. You will kiss another girl who shares my name. She reminds you of me, but not of that night.
But right now, in this moment, you reach across my
chest, hook my shoulder and drive me to the ground. You beat your body across my back, your hand thatches my hair, your weight sows me into soil. Bullets spin comets over our bodies.
You bury me, so that they will not find me. You float me, so that I do not drown. You heat me, and I do not freeze.
My life you cover with your life.
I knew you would. I know you once.
(I knew a girl.)
Molly Fessler's work has been published by Real Simple, NPR.org, and Cicada Magazine, among others. She grew up on a llama farm in Detroit, and studied at Bryn Mawr College. In her non-writing hours, she works in Community Health, moonlighting as a yoga instructor, sociology teacher, and part-time nanny.