my horoscope told me the sun would be returning, cycling back to its eleventh house, that when it came, finally, I could release the meat of my tongue after a month clamped, cut between my teeth, biting back each word I would have spit, if I could, at Annie, to Heather, each fuck you curdled in my mouth, held there with nowhere to go because I’ve forgotten how to swallow, because it’s impolite to curse the dead, because when I try to make a sound I feel something squeeze; a fist with rotting digits, that smell like calf-skin, like a garden shed, spilled gasoline, mechanic’s gloves it found somewhere, stole in exchange for a body, put on though the devil doesn’t leave fingerprints. In each curse I try to spit is a dead thing come to finish a job, a man-sized creature, hungry, wringing tighter until something pops, shatters, until the wishbone sound of my cracking neck is painfully audible to the nosebleed seats and here, now, again is the sensation of waking up still walking, teaspoons of ashes collected in my throat, gasping and pleading and feral, a dirt-fed fairy tale princess who has survived battles only to lock herself away in a second floor tower, donning a cape of twin sheets, stationed by a picture window, forever watching the driveway, watching the neighbors come and go, watching parents come and go, watching you ring the bell, day after day, you, coming, showing up, sitting on the steps, waiting at the curb keeping your own watch in your rust bucket of a car, you waiting for me to – what? – let down the hair I twist anxiously around nails bitten down to the beds? For me to talk to you? For me to ask to see you when you come to pick up my homework? I am a monk now, a nun, you bring me worksheets and assignments, you collect them all, folders full of endless essays on anything that is not that day, that is not that bullshit moonless night, that is not a homecoming, a Halloween, the crush on you I cannot keep, the safety I once felt in a stranger’s house. You bring me charity case flowers and I pass down to you 5,000 words on a shattered visage, a wrinkled lip, a sneer of cold command, mangled equations, paragraphs of all the fucking nonsense they would have given me shit for, all the work I shouldn’t be doing, all the books I could be forgetting, names, dates, places, a treatise on the Treaty of Versailles, the anatomy of the inner ear, stars and crescents, labeled maps of pieces of our bodies and the ways they are connected; bones that can be shattered, the ligaments and striated muscles too easily sliced, and I touch the scars, the unruly line across my shoulder, my upper arm, the itching nicks on my palms, disruptions of life, fate, head, heart, a palmistry chart of what is lost, of Annie, of Heather, of Brad, even, of what I’ll never prove to them, of the fuck you they deserved minutes, hours, days before I could scrawl, without irony, some half-hearted regurgitation of thoughts on teen angst and body counts. My horoscope told me I’m in team-player mode, drenched in the spotlight of the sun, that my feelings could erupt into a consummation of some romance, some crystal-clear articulation of my desires; but if I called down to you I would want for you to take me somewhere, to help me figure out how to speak the words I haven’t articulated yet, to repeat, to repeat, to say everything but what you wish me to tell you, your wide-eyes, your dumb virgin letterman’s jacket, your stupid good hair, the way you never gave me the proper time of day before and the way even this Cosmo quiz tells me one day I will beg for you to do something, take me back, pull me apart, fashion a crude machine from a wire hanger, to bleed me or make me forget, reverse the spell or, maybe, leave me where they found me, that terrible place, that Laura Ashley guest room, that immaculately organized closet, a place dark as pitch, a place where I dotted every “I” and crossed every “T”, the place where I lived, where I live still, where I will live again, where the logic of the movie says maybe I should stay away from you to save myself.
Jessica Berger a Chicago-based fiction writer as well as an editor with Grimoire and the newly launched Always Crashing Magazine. Her work has been featured (or is forthcoming) in Pank, Ninth Letter, trnsfr, Gamut, The Spectacle, Maudlin House, Moonsick, Midwestern Gothic, and elsewhere.