The following is a fiction excerpt from issue 33.1 (Spring 2009) of the cream city review. It appears on page 24.
THINGS I WILL NEVER TELL YOU
I know this makes no sense. You—a British accent attached to a pale skinned body, hovering, dishing out blows. You, a whip, and me screaming in pain, I know. No sense. But the mind is a funny thing and some dreams should never be revealed.
And not in a million years would I tell you sometimes I wish I had cancer because if I were to survive people would say, “You’re so strong. You’re a fighter. How amazing you are! How miraculous your body!” And then I could say, “Yes. My miraculous body. All the bones and blood and hair that makes me up. It is all quite a tough lovely little thing.” And who does not want to believe that their body is a tough lovely thing?
The flesh opened and a man—another man—short with a thick Boston accent, dark hair that curls at the temples and blue collar hands that fumble over skin, leaves
impressions of the body pressed down on a floor, on linoleum that acts like a suction cup to the small of a back, releases the skin with a suck and the smack of lips that are not yours. You see, I could never tell you that I carry this man with me. I search for him on the streets at bus stops, lounging in store doorways, a cigarette pressed to the mouth, something you would never do.
Because you see, I could never tell you at hospitals before surgery they cover you up. They pile blankets upon blankets over a body that is draped in a sheath of gown. And they check on you, they check on your body. They say, “Are you okay? Are you warm enough?” and what a wonderful thing to be asked. And in the O.R., if you happen to be awake—which I was once—they talk to you in soothing tones. They call you “Sweetie” or “Baby.” They say, “It’s going to be all right” and who doesn’t want to be told things such as this?
You tall. You and your charming accent. You and your librarian hands that touches softly the spines of books could never understand, could never say these things. And this is why in a trillion hours all lined up behind each other, I could never tell you that sometimes I tell people in stores when they ask, “How are you?” that “I’m having a baby,” (knowing that I cannot) as if this answer implies that I don’t feel well, but I’m content and overjoyed with my own good news. I’m so bloody joyous that there is life growing inside of me and that makes me more than something. And they say, “How wonderful. How far along are you?” as if we share the deep secret of motherhood, as if we are now bonded together through some deep connection that can be traced back through all the mothers, in all of time, in all the world and they smile. They smile deep and wide. They grin and who doesn’t want to bring joy to people? Who does not want to feel bonded to someone? I will never tell you this because you do not yet know the nature of my insides or a longing to share secrets with a stranger, with a tough, lovely little thing.
Me as you know her: A waif, you say. A darling. A woman who kisses like a dream, you say of me as you know her. And me, being her, this other her, smiles with teeth and kisses you deep and presses her hip bones against yours. You all slenderness in a blue crew sweater with your librarian hands that know how to traipse down the spines of books of bodies, will never know even in the ten seconds before my death, which I’m convinced will end in twisted metal and streets, that I look at other men, as if they are the answer to what you are not.
Ashley Kaine currently teaches at Bowling Green State University and serves
as the Fiction Editor of Mid-American Review.