by | Jul 8, 2021 | Creative Nonfiction

EXIT by Fiona McPhillips

It’s not the impact that does it, the clash of knuckle and glass, a convergence of power and frustration that shatters the facade framing the entrance to our home; it’s the withdrawal, the stubborn shards that rip through skin, tear across flesh, the jagged slivers that sever tendons and nerves, slice into veins, rupture an artery, and a cartoon jet of blood splatters against the puckered yellow glass and he is laughing, the drunken absurdity of this midnight moment as it brakes to a sluggish pulse, flickers in spurts of blood, and his eyes fire with fear and triumph that now he has my attention, but the syllables are gone from inside his fist, hand hung limp against cleaved muscle and splintered bone, and the will slides out of him, ribbons of blood that snake across skin as he sinks to the doorstep and I could end it, the lingering beat of his drum, the infinite goodbye, but guilt and duty collude and with an ambulance on the way, I submit to a starless sky as I wrap the spewing flesh in a towel, eyes averted in case I catch a glimpse of him, the stowaway in this carcass, and we shiver as a crimson tide creeps across the towel in a silence as deep as a grave until the faint ripple of a siren is upon us and swirls of scarlet and sapphire spotlight our shame and I tell all to the paramedics and now it is real, blood on their hands and their shirts and he’s sneering, lashing out and when he says, “I’ve got AIDS,” they turn to me in horror and I say, “No, Jesus, of course he doesn’t,” but I think, what if he did, what if I never got to walk away from this perpetual fist, and I hold that thought in my cupped palm as they tend his wound, lead him to a gurney and when they ask, “Are you coming?” I think about how the most dangerous time is in the leaving and heart pounds the blood through my veins and I grip my resolve tight in my hand so that when I’m screaming through the night, chimneys and treetops receding in the blackness, I will know that I am moving forward.



Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

About The Author


Fiona McPhillips is a journalist and author. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hobart, Litro, Atrium and elsewhere. She is a reader for The Forge and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Dublin City University. Her first novel, Underwater, has been shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger award.