21 weeks 2 days
So you go home. You run a bath. You forget to climb inside it. So you wake on a towel on the floor. The bath is cold and you are bleeding.
Your belly protrudes. So you caress it. With soft, round ellipticals you move your palms, your head hangs to one side as the walls pulse. You ache for ice between your legs. So you close your eyes and wade among the darkness and the stars. You find a slit in time and wrench it open. You tear through time and step beyond the fray, away from the bath, away from the blood. You walk. One foot in front of the other until you find last week.
So you climb inside yourself prostrate on the bed. Your belly encased in gel, your baby wriggling on screen. So you count his toes, and call him a worm, sniffing back pride as his long legs kick. You hold your husband's hand. Tight. You hold it tight and say "Of course we'll come with you."
So you travel to Northern Quebec. You eat club sandwiches in bed while it snows and watch re-runs of Friends while he works. You bury your face in a soft pillow case and seal up the fray while you sink deeper into bed with your crumbs, your bump, your family.
So you never get behind the dash. You never drive and you never collide. So you never run from hospital to run a bath. So you never have to tell him. You never have to drop the soap in the tub and watch as it all melts away.
Let the City Take Care of You
Eight years of Tinder and Bumbled empowerment. As the clock struck 30 she wandered the streets in search of solitude.
Eight years of blind dates. Eight years of smells. From nervous sweat to cat urine, dried semen to cheap cologne. Only one smelled of the ocean and exactly zero of the forest floor.
The maths spun as she put increasing distance between herself and the bar; between herself and him. 20 lipsticks, 16 face washes, thousands of dollars of creams, serums, and spot treatments, at least 12 mascaras, four Botox sessions, countless blowouts, and bags of disposable clothing. She unpinned her hair and shook it violently. And for what?
As he returned from the bar and plonked down her third beer, he'd looked at her with that look. That look people get when they're about to be cheeky. His eyes lubed with liquor, he'd watched as she licked spilled beer from her thumb and waited for him to open his mouth. His cheeks darkened as he came out with it and asked. Asked for her number. Oh, come on, you know the one. That number. That big, bad, how many men before me number. She half-laughed as eight plus years ran through her mind. As every night of joy, regret, of drunk fuelled fumble followed by stumbled wander to the free health clinic was relived. She laughed at the number. She laughed at the life she'd lived.
But he didn't. He didn't laugh at all. He left. Called her a desperate whore and left. Left her with a bill for sweet potato fries, cheese sticks, and chicken tenders. Some birthday.
She softly cried beneath a cloudy sky as she perched in the alcove of a darkened boutique. The silence of her tears wed the silence of her phone and echoed through the silence of the street.
He showed up out of nowhere. An older man in driving shoes. He stared at her and blinked heavily, knowingly. Then slowly removed a package of cigarettes from his jacket, bent down and placed one between her lips, then one between his own. He lit them, paused for a moment and walked away. Leaving her to inhale and enjoy the rhythms of her solitude.
The shelling started at 3:00am, and with it the dogs. A cacophony of howling and thunder. Yet, it wasn't so much the sky opening as it was the earth. Hungry, insistent, devouring . It's intestines overflowing with the indigestion of the city; belching tar, blood, and industrial waste. Tricycles fell from crumbling balconies as city parks erupted in ash. There was nothing to do but wait.
The dogs quieted as the earth closed in step with the rising of the sun. Men, mostly, emerged from the dust, some carrying rifles. The women soon followed and it began: the search for the living, the burial of the dead.
From the east a cow bell started to jingle, a happy tune. Children peered from doorways in their pyjamas before stepping into the street. They lined up in bare feet and waited, small smiles widening. His cart appeared in the midst of so much grey. Scarlet pomegranates glistening, waiting to leak their juices.
There is no weather like the bellwether, ball tether wetness of a grainy Sunday afternoon. No tea to warm the palms or coffee to ignite the soul. Just tick-tock-time beating in tune to the blind homunculus tapping inside my skull. She was gone. And with her, the kettle.
Her big red hair bouncing up, down, around. The ceilings burnished and dripping with her contempt. She was gone and so was the kettle. Out into the dawn rain with that big hair balanced atop a bicycle the colour of sunshine. She would return to that rock of scorned landscape and live like a wood fairy in the shack her daddy built.
Karma’s a Bitch
Did you feel it when they sucked you from my womb? A whore's womb. That's what he said, your daddy. "No baby a' mine 'll come outta that whore's womb", and he chucked me the cash to deal with ya. Oh, baby, you're safe now. Better there than here. The walls are startin' to frost with winter comin'. Last night a wino near barrelled down the door to get to the fire but passed out onna porch tryin'. He was gone come mornin'. Tabby has learned to break the ice atop her dish most days but it went solid through yesterday. I imagined how you'd a fared. I imagined waking up finding you stone frozen, your rosy lips still moist under the ice, your eyes open, accusin', asking What have you done? I gettin' justice is what I done. You think your daddy got to just go home after sayin' a thing like that? Every week he still come. And when he sleeps I cut a lock of his hair and burn it in the fire, asking the gods to burn him too.