Head-over-heels-ish I was just miserable. I could no longer speak properly, like the other girls. Pearly buttons on silk cuffs. My teeth trembling. Never read the guest list. The names just sat there, waiting to take their vows. The groom came later than I thought he would. Came with an entourage. Came with board games and stale pretzels. Came to smudge my dress with cerulean and my stockings with rust. Came after the work was already done. The wedding invitations pitched point-first at his mother. My dress hemmed at her majesty, ahem. Those stone cherubs still guarding my garter, milky eyes eyeing an open door. One returned, but most stayed missing, perched on post office windows, watching the letters as they’re slipped into their slots.
After the Miracle
White plates, white tablecloths, white ornaments for the wrists. At night the instruments, and that odd silence. We aren’t force-fed, exactly; more like compelled. The husbands so perfect they’re no longer here. Who knows when the wives’ hands will tremble and the tablecloths catch fire? We polish tomorrow’s champagne flutes. The waitress charts courses from Iceland to Finland to anxious.
Wrapped in swansdown and silk, I was becoming smaller and smaller in your hand. You were the impossibility of a shoreline. Who can remember how many times we’d tried before? I wanted to be that cut-glass city waiting for you on the other coast. Frost-bitten, shivering, we unmoor the ship one last time. Sure we’re sailing, the sky colder than the weather, signal flares flaring into the snow.
We built a spectacle in place of the schoolhouse. Rudimentary rules scrawled across the chalk boards. The trees triaged. Substitutes shoved children into library chairs, trying to make bank tellers of all of us. In gym we could decide between tennis, cage fighting, or trivia night. Every day we tried to stitch the teacher back together, mending holes where some of the girls got grabby. The answers were still multiple choice, but everyone mouthed a different answer. Flowers sprouted out of milk cartons until the cardboard gave way. Sometimes we could see meaning leak from the tiny letters sprawled across the pages of our books. Order was a story we could no longer tell, and night, how it held us at all hours, chained to our desks.
Lace skirt, cracked tooth. How she pivots in that same corridor. Untrimmed hair gathers in gold knots at her temples. There’s a mark on her wrist where the bracelet snapped. A white wainscot keeps her from waiting alone. But when the concierge calls her name in the lobby she’ll climb through the window to the Other City. Unfasten her necklace outside the pawn shop. The same girls always on the bridge thinking nothing at all, tinfoil stuffed in their wallets, cold cream for food. Before long those middle-aged men on Valium crash the family sedan into the auditorium. In each of the chairs, someone holds flowers for the lead.