Third love

The offer to pack up, come home again,
comes with the usual deterrents, those
archaic stirred-up memories: of hymns
and after-sermon sheet cake, the dull scrape
of plastic forks on paper plates and talks
with almost-strangers on the state of my
eternal soul, though never so direct.
Of wounds, war stories that we traded like
sleepover secrets—flippant—hoping that
a snort, a joking tone, could make them light.
Of my aunt—and her irregularly-shaped,
dark bruises—who’d make me swear to never trust
men. She would take me out for breakfast in
Tuesday-morning hangover shades, and while
she paid for coffee and two eggs, fried twice
for crispy edges, I would scan her wrists,
the backs of her knees, pick out those bruises from
the mottled map of skin: a word search of
her childhood scars, her freckles, moles and veins.

There’re brighter memories, of course—the long
and ordinary stretches. Grocery runs,
late, lazy weekend mornings. If I could,
I’d like to crawl inside them, stay and live
there, even if I had to spend my real
life slack-jawed, absent, numb, a toddler in
pajamas spellbound by a TV screen.

But reality has a way of tugging at
my sleeve, demanding my attention. Well,
if burrowing inside the past is wrong,
then grant me, at the very least, a clean
slate. Wipe it all away. Clear every blitzed-
out, every blissed-out crevice of my brain.
Let me forget it all, the only way
I know how to begin again.

Emily McDonald is an emerging writer from Frederick, MD. She recently graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a B.A. in the Writing Seminars.

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