This is Not a Situation in Which You Should Remain Calm
We held hands until the intersection. He dropped his first. I pulled my coat around me tight, for something to do, the buttons long gone. My breasts were sore and I shuddered. Don’t do that, he said. He pointed with his head to the ATM machine across the street from where we stood. Make it enough this time, he said. I hurried across the street. I heard him greet some men in the street. The keffiyehs they wore waved like flags in the wind. They spoke guttural and urgent. I could hear them over the vibrating traffic, cars negotiating difficult turns. I stood with my coat open and the wind ripping a gaping hole through me. I had the money in my hand. He waved off his friends and came to me. He stood outside the market. I chose some meat in a plastic package, pink tomatoes small and premature, grown somewhere far from where we found ourselves. There was a name for this in my language, but I forgot what it was. At home I fried the meat. I sliced the tomatoes, cut my finger and sucked the blood. He made a face, called me simple. Picked his teeth right in front of me and I thought of what my father might say. He stared at me, his face softening by degrees. I pulled down the neck of my blouse, revealing my bruised breasts. Purple and green and yellow flowers bloomed like a night flower. He set his toothpick down. It wasn’t me, he said. His coffee boiled over on the stove. I smelled the scorch. Breathed it in to my pulsating lungs. Salvaged what was left. Served it the way he’d become accustomed to; hot. A curl of lemon skin. Never sugar.
[an editor's favorite, 2012]
Michelle Reale is an academic librarian. Her fiction has been published in elimae, Word Riot, Monkeybicycle, PANK, Rumble, Dogzplot and other fine places.