Last Ten


Tag Archive: part one

She came out of the forest and onto the road. The cut across the center of her right palm had bled enough to coat her fingers which she now struggled to straighten, the new scab breaking as she opened her hand. She saw the wet asphalt, then her bloodstained fingers, and then the evidence of her wound––gray, brown, red. Before she remembered to call what she was standing on a road it began to rain.
    She kept off the asphalt first, walking through cupping mud in her shredded sneakers. It was confusing, today’s sun, hidden by the flat clouds and the overhanging trees, though even in the rain she felt its warmth. When she couldn’t step without risking a shoe, she walked back onto the highway. She felt her hope for a car in her head and her dread for him in her guts and limbs. As she walked––north, towards the city––she grew bored, but only needed to close her right hand into a fist to come awake. She instinctually slapped a mosquito with her wounded palm and groaned. As soon as she imagined letting all the blood out of her, she whispered: no ideas.
    The road curved, ascended. She took off her sneakers and tested her blistered feet on the asphalt. Though the cool rainwater didn’t abate the pain, she preferred to touch the road like this. Half a mile later, she tossed her shoes into a clump of brush. She saw a highway marker, walked to it, then waited.
    All she allowed herself to think about was her promise to forbid herself of minding all but present facts. And by this thinking, she transgressed.
    She said aloud the harmless facts of her body: pain, hunger, thirst, tired. Scared, she heard, then closed her eyes for a few seconds––standing, on weak legs and throbbing feet—–before looking down the road in both directions. She wandered about how little she could say to whoever picked her up. She cautioned herself about the truck, but only so long as she forgot that she slashed the tires. Amid a dizzy wash of regret over dropping the knife, she remembered to only handle the facts. Her palm stung. A car came.
    She didn’t stick out her thumb, but instead stood there wet, barefoot, and bleeding, thinking that enough. She winced, squinted. She saw the car’s siren and turned, running through the mud and bush—she settled behind the trunk of a sugar maple. It had stopped raining, but now the tree’s leaves studded her with drops that felt too cold, or aimed. The cruiser passed with a hiss as she sighed, realizing that she didn’t have to avoid them, the police, that she should’ve asked for help.
    Do not go back to their systems of prolonged suffering.
    His voice unlocked her exhaustion, even the memory of his voice. She began to puke but clenched her jaws and tilted her head back, matted hair against bark. She looked through the canopy.
    It is out of deep love that you will do this.
    Rose clapped her left hand over her mouth.
    A car door shut.

Her clothes were soaked and she hadn’t eaten in days so she shivered against the AC. She didn’t say anything, grateful for another fact.
    Shit, he said. He reached and flipped the dial to red.
    What had he asked her and what had she said? She was in the vehicle, in the front seat, but was already forgetting. Why did he stop the car? The artificial heat over her skin relaxed her to questions, those she went over privately. She rested her head on the window and stared at the sideview mirror. For the first time in many months, she could see a part of herself reflected.
    Ma’am, I have to ask again. He paused. She blinked, wanted him to see that she was awake, wanted to have to say aloud what still felt obliterated.
    What’s your name?