Under the Covers
November 26, 2019
Written by Niki Hamann
Cover Image: Deux Femmes by Baha Mahieddine
I tell her I have to grab my jacket, it’ll just take a second so she can wait here. My voice shakes slightly at the end, and maybe she notices, but she won’t say a thing with those lips sewn shut. I climb up twelve flights of stairs and take two fingers. The dark red bruise on the knuckle of my middle finger taunts me; I know what you did last night, and the night before that and the acid is burning a hole down my raw throat, come on baby, light my fire.
I stare deeply at my reflection in the mirror of the communal bathroom, pooled tears and mottled cheeks like a sickening Raggedy Ann. I can feel a painful throbbing in my chest, the heart of a hunted rabbit, with the thought of someone opening the door and seeing right through me. Breathe, swallow bile, just a splash of water, gum for good measure. My face distorts, blowing up like a big round balloon, the whole of the moon. And then she appears from the corner, begging with vacant eyes to be let out of a looking-glass prison. I turn away robotically in tired routine; I know she’ll still be there tomorrow and I can’t stand that brittle smile.
I slip on my jacket and then one more because I’m still shivering, teeth clattering angrily in my skull. Another bitter winter means I’ll wear my coat to sleep tonight. My mind fogs over like the Boston skyline at dawn, and in a dream, I’m walking straight instead of taking the left to class tomorrow, vanishing into the misty morning, tinier and tinier until I’m one of those little green toy soldiers marching one-two into the haze. I take the elevator this time, forget the parachute.
I step outside and the frigid wind embraces me into the tempest, the chill of the night beginning to seep into my paper-thin skin. Heavier and heavier, I’m sinking into the cracks of the cement. Nothing to hold together, torn flesh and blood spattered on the stone-cold floor. I rip the stitches, and in fear’s silent echo, I can see I’ve already let go. With blue lips and bated breath, she strokes my spine.