I was so cruel. I scribbled things in the air before her eyes that she never wanted to read about herself. Some true. Some lies. Most were exaggerated to prove a point of which the validity was not being questioned. If the venom was not scribbled, it was yelled into the caves of my hands and hurled at her ears. A silent stoning never echoed so loudly. Bruises weren’t of black and blue, they never reached that mossy green, but they were visible to anyone. I didn’t see them for myself until I glanced at the coffee shop’s window from over my computer screen. I unfolded my legs in the chair and straightened up to get a better look. There she was. Shoulders forward, teeth gnawing at her bottom lip, avoiding prolonged eye contact and assuming everyone was only giving her attention to notice the things I made her hate about herself. My morning was going so well. Why did I have to run into her before even getting my coffee. I felt sick. The evidence of my damage was undeniable. I’ve been so unkind to someone who did nothing to deserve it and I can no longer avoid it. I turn to look again, I brush my hair back and she copies without intention. I notice a smear on her face. I lean closer, pull my sleeve over my thumb, and wipe the smudge off the mirrored glass. Somehow, I now feel worse.
The sound was dichotomous. His feet crunched against the earth. His breathing looped. He had never noticed the lack of synchronization. Was it always like this or was it just today? It was driving him mad. Crunch. Inhale. Crunch. Exhale. Why couldn’t he get them to align? The dense fog was a velvet panel, the wetness crawling over his shoulders and leaving a taste in his mouth that couldn’t quite be placed. There was no moisture left on his palette and the fog was surprisingly unhelpful. It had been exactly one year since he walked out here. He startled himself with his accurate memory of the precise location. As if it were a Master Lock: two yards north, three yards right, four yards left. Almost there. In the dead of autumn, he knew he would have to look for the mark on the tree rather than the clover patch on the ground (one that would be seen as out of place to any knowledgable eye). Why was he even here? Look, stare and walk away? He briefly felt as if he was coming back just to see if he could continue to get away with it. It was like going back to high school just to see if that trophy he won for the football team was still in the hallway case, the brass still shining around his engraved name. He found the gathering of trees he had become so familiar with and, as always, his stomach grew oily with a mixture of guilt, shame and excitement. He started around the tree and electricity shot down his limbs. The grave was open, like a mangled envelope that was knifed and split down the back. It looked more harrowing today than when he first created it. He leaned over and peered down, bile slowly creeping towards his throat. Scribbled on the back of scrap cardboard in marker ink, not fresh, but not yet faded: “now you know I know.” A squealing tinnitus bolted through his skull and his fingers began to wriggle. He knew something was different today; he just had no idea it was the beginning of a hunt.
She found herself standing there, heart pounding, fists seizing warm air and damp beads of fever, eyes focused on nothing [although there is plenty to see]. A scream curdles in her throat. She swallows it. Her fists turn to combs, running through her ashy, unkept hair. The scream comes again. This time she holds it in her mouth and it escapes a shivering exhale. Her hands lower, her eyes focus, pupils dilating, and she sweeps her hand from her chin to her décolletage. With a quick shake of the head, she turns on her foot and goes back into the house. Smiling, she kisses him on the forehead, noticing his callous unawareness of her abrupt absence. “I’ll leave tomorrow,” she says silently to herself as she lifts her coffee mug, fixating her eyes on his face while he scans the newspaper. He never looks up. Never sees her hands trembling. Never sees her heart bleeding. Never cared.
But you see, there is
a graveyard in my mouth
filled with words that
have died on my lips.