Sometimes when I go back to the city, I remember
the second time he hit me. He’d grown up
in Chicago, but we were lost in the South Loop, tracks crossing
above our heads like iron sutures, the whole dizzying swarm
of wool and down that covered rushing bodies. Grey slush
melting beneath the heat of my knees as I fell
to the ground. We missed our train home. He didn’t speak
for hours. All year I measured days by the splitting
and restitching of scabs on his knuckles. That final winter was so cold,
and he, so angry. I never saw them heal. I didn’t know then
that I wanted anything more than him and his white undershirts
all stained copper with drinking. Two years after I left,
I found myself back in the city. I took that same train
we missed and pressed my palms to the seat to stop
them from shaking. So tired, ready to give him what he wanted,
I walked past the grocery store, the ice cream shop.
All the while, a fledgling dying inside of me, and with each step,
I spooned poison into its mouth. I felt nothing
when I finally arrived at his mother’s house. It was spring
and robins freckled the yard with their scarlet chests
like open wounds. Her purple irises were lovely that year.
I thought I heard his niece laughing through the open
window. I stood there for what felt like hours. Still so obedient,
I waited for him to come outside. I think I wanted him to kill me.
Photo used under CC.