A Plague of Locusts

Day six of my June writing experiment, “30 for 30 in under 30,” in which I write thirty randomass essays with minimal editing, to be finished in under 30 minutes. FYI: If you’re looking for day five, don’t. I was on Creative Sabbatical. Gangsters gotta get paid!

I remember your kitchen window.

You know, the tiny, crooked one above the kitchen sink in the house on Locust Lane. The one with the rusty, painted-over latch and the sloppy lines of caulk dried into a frozen ooze along the edges of the panes – the imperfect work of the half-careful hands of some man who probably died years before we were born, lifetimes before we grew into the uneasy age of 22 and landed there, together, willing and so reckless in love at the start, and then, later, bound together only by our mutual repulsion, boy- and girl-shaped reverse magnets.

I remember the old white paint along the wooden sill, burnt by then to a yellowish gray from the heat of a thousand careless sunsets. I remember the crooked line of junk and trinkets that had accumulated there along the ledge over passing time: a tiny plastic cowboy figurine with a tiny plastic lasso, the cast iron junk ring you found in the dirt beneath the porch, an empty little box that once contained Chinese rice candy, a tin whistle, a few red pebbles from the time you and your gutter punk friends hopped a freight train to a shipping yard in Juarez.

I remember so much.

I remember the crack you put at the top of the window the night Dustin ate your Dumpster-dived olive baguette, the way your face bunched in rage as you hurled the salt shaker in the direction of his head, the high, sharp ping of it bouncing off the window, the rattle of it landing in the metal sink, shattering, and falling still. I remember watching that crack spreading its way towards the bottom in a wicked, gradual arch as the months shuffled by. I remember the way the sun would pour through that window in late afternoon, the way that crack would throw it into a shimmering, distorted line along the old, orangey-peely linoleum floor. All so warped by then that even the sunlight couldn’t get through without being weakened.

I guess you really can’t ever get away from anything unchanged.

I remember the first time I tried to leave you. It was too early after a long, hard night of drinking and fighting. You’d thrown an Adidas at my head and called me a whore. I’d stomped outside to sleep in my little Toyota Tercel, so angry and hurt and appalled. I shivered out there against the frigid winter chill for a good hour before you came out in your underwear and calmly ordered me back inside. I was too young to realize I could say “No.”

I still remember your body as it looked then – sallow and the chest concave, your eyes and nailbeds yellow with nicotine. Your knobby knees and your cruel hands. Your beautiful eyes. I followed you back inside and we fell to sleep on the narrow green couch you used for a bed, our bodies smashed unwantedly together.

I woke up early because I had to work. My eyes were puffy and red from crying and my throat was raw and I was standing next to that kitchen window, furiously rolling a little cigarette, steeling myself to leave for good and never, never come back again. Dustin walked in.

Was that you screaming last night?

Yeah.

You OK?

No. I’m leaving. And not coming back.

I’m sure Brent didn’t mean whatever he said.

It’s the tip of the fucking iceberg.

And he hugged me beneath the cracking window. And I went. And I came back.

I’m not saying all of it was your fault.

But, you know, all of it was your fault.

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