When the baby we made didn’t live, you took off for New Haven early, before the semester started. That seemed fair since I had nothing else to give that you didn’t already have. I missed riding around in your Escalade, but I’ve never taken anything in life for granted.
You took me to your house when your parents were in Boca. It had great white couches with baby-soft lap rugs draped along their backs, and rows and rows of books with the same dark spines. We never had books in our house when I was a kid, but my mom made up stories for me every night, long ones with lots of characters and plot twists. Her armpit smelled sharp as I leaned against her shoulder, and she’d stop in mid-sentence to chew a jagged hangnail. Sometimes she’d blow it from her mouth, and I liked to think of the tiny shards of her coating my comforter. I’d planned to give the baby her name – Sandra Dolores Montana – so she’d still be with me all the time.
I chew my nails too, especially at the register when I’m between customers. At home when I read my library books, I put on mittens so the wool will fur my tongue if I bite, but I’m not allowed to wear them in the store. When people put items on the belt – duct tape, pruning shears, lumber with that sweet resin smell – I wonder if they’re fixing to cut up a body or bury sacks full of stolen money and watch them for signs of unease.
But mostly I’m thinking about the night you took me to the cabin with the windchimes that clunked and muttered on the porch. There was a cigarette-burn sunset as the peaty taste of your IPA coated my tongue. I like long slow kissing better than sex, but you dragged off my panties before we’d even laid down on that lumpy bed, and after just a few thrusts, you rolled off the condom so you could feel the slippery insides of me. Later, while you slept, I listened to the trickle of snowmelt from the roof and counted the winter moths strung along the beams like fancy Christmas lights.
You laughed at me when I couldn’t tell the difference between a cicada and a cricket. You said nature and I were two. But I know the tree I can see from my apartment is an oak because of the shower of acorns in summer. I know to count between the lightning and the thunder to judge how fast the storm is coming. And I knew what was happening when the bleeding wouldn’t stop. My feet up in stirrups and the I/V in my arm, I was back in that cabin, my mother’s fingers laced with mine as we watched the full moon rising, shawled in a ring of the softest, cleanest white.