Picture the vines creeping from his collar.
The stem snaking.
The petal pink and thick as a human ear unfurling from the place his cheek should be.
Pollen-pouched bees yellowing as they gather
what he was always bound to become.
What comes next.
This is our revenge.
Those of us he mounts to build the crystal barricade,
its pearled locks and curtains
thin as whispers and thick
as what stands between dimensions.
He designed it all to let in the curated glow
and keep out everything that makes the light.
He twines black ribbon around his wrist. With a yellow strand, I mirror him. Weave slips around the thumb and passes through open channels between fingers stretched wide. Twice around and across, the dressing lays itself over the bumps of knuckles where once we counted days of the month. He is finished with both of his before I am even halfway around the first. His fingers turn my hand and graze my left palm just before mummifying its living flesh beneath warped satin dressing.
“But it’s no use now,” thought poor Alice, “to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!”
I was 14. He was 19. I didn’t know him before that weekend. The boys who took me to the party at his house went somewhere and left me with him. He had a reputation, I later learned, for getting girls drunk and raping them. He added pure grain alcohol, I later learned, to whatever he was serving me.
He told me he was someone else. He locked me in his room. He took off everything but my shirt. He raped me. It was my first sexual encounter. I didn’t report because I was scared my dad would be mad at me for drinking at a party. That’s the kind of worry a 14-year-old brain can understand. I couldn’t yet grasp the enduring shame of staying quiet when I could have helped stop him from hurting other girls.
This happened in Bethesda, Maryland in July, 1988. Everyone at the party knew what he did, including the boys who brought me and the one I had to beg to take me home. I wonder how they might they tell their #WhyIDidntReport stories about that night?
Until her dying day, Georgia O’Keefe fought against the notion
that her flowers resemble sexy ladyparts. Too silly. Titillating.
Diminishing that lovely stroke to the hungry scratchings of a beast in heat.
There is no end to pleasure. Our flesh, how its tastes change.
You barely pause to wonder how we end up in the garden. Crepe-skinned crones in sun hats, we busy ourselves with one of the few benign industries left to us in our diminished worlds. We cannot captain the ships, you reason. Cannot write the laws. We must see life backward now as our children and their children take the keys and set the route.
In your haste to cover the stretch of highway still spooling out ahead, you don’t waste attention on what occupies the roadside. We bend there, indistinguishable from scarecrows. From garden gnomes. It stands to reason (if anyone were to ask) that we surrender to these tiny corners of the world. Our puttering a last gasp at creation. Bygone artists, barren makers. Do you see us deflating into bodies long past their use-by date? Do you see us at all?
Invisibility is a curse for certain, though one we have a hand in casting.
Silence a welcome respite
as the world’s tragedies carry on
It does not last, of course, this quiet as thin as the skin
of a drum.
You consider desertion
on its plastic hanger, how quick the fix.
But you ache for the succor of absolution
in its supple cloak, to have it fold around you,
ceding the demands of atonement.
This is what the ugly thoughts do. This is how the lies start to seem true. My son’s diagnosis weaves into my own, our wounds pull each other into a dark and intimate tango.
On my son’s first birthday, a stomach virus knocked him flat. For the next few days, he couldn’t keep anything down. Even though he begged for the comfort of nursing, I had to ration his time on the breast. We fed him Pedialyte from a dropper. He screamed in protest until thirst overcame his resistance.
After a few days, he rallied. Small portions of pureed food stayed down. Great quantities of breast milk too. He resumed scooting all over the house and tormenting the dog. The doctor had said he’d get over it, and this seemed to hold true.