she was six when the briefcase connected with her jaw.
whose hand? are you sure it was a hand?
to be fair, it could have been a floating briefcase.
ghosts don’t know what bruises are.
she walked right into it and cracked a tooth.
laughing, he took her home.
her mother shut the door in his face
and tended to the bloodied child
her mother received a new name: poisonous bitch
in all fairness, it was just a baby tooth
she was twenty-nine when the unfortunate incident occurred.
even in poetry, her need to believe it was love
is the thing that keeps bloodying her face.
it is also the thing she uses to stanch the bleeding.
the sweetness of her new friend
was in how much he wanted to be held.
more than he wanted to hurt her, even.
she’d cradle his head like an egg about to hatch,
press herself against him until his seismic heartbeat slowed
to match her own.
she found strength in steadying him.
that’s what she will tell you.
he put on a cape he used a household ingredient
he kept a little scrapbook
his violence was a fairy tale: unbelievable
even to himself.
he had a chip in his tooth too.
he only ate soft things.
she remembers it swinging open and hundreds of cherry blossoms falling out,
falling in her mouth,
falling to the ground,
wet with rain or blood,
covering it all up
she is thirty-six when it occurs to her:
he didn’t have a job. what was the briefcase for?
in the footage she sees her friend’s
his wide eyes
his marshmallow cheeks just like hers
his brave stuttering his starched shirt his lonely distress
in front of the crowd he had been told not to fear
as it slowly dawns on him
that the flowers in his mouth
the young woman behind him points furiously to a gash in her leg
she watches her own wounds bloom on their skin.
their blood is not her blood, so she believes it. believes them.
she doesn’t try to cover them in petals
she searches for their names in the scrapbook
finds them pressed like hummingbirds
your bones are valentines he says
i like to look at them he says
pulling the cape tight
he pours the last of the cocktail down the drain
throws the cape in the east river
wait a few years, she says to the footage
eventually we create a vocabulary for pain
eventually they see what we see: the briefcase
and the poison
eventually we stop seeing cherry blossoms
eventually the world stops asking why we are wounded
and starts asking why he is crushing hummingbird skulls under a paperback copy of De Officiis
eventually we tell it
Fabiola Levy is a writer based in New York. She edits the zine GOOD LOOK.