Title: Crow’s Feet
Type: Short Story
We stood ten feet apart–
in the misty quiet of the dusk, “Please don’t leave me.” His words were monotone apart from the last, “me,” which sounded like he was choking back a spitball the size of a cat-eye marble, “I have to leave, and I have to take the baby with me. It isn’t good for us here.” He took a step forward, with sturdy conviction, and reached a hand toward my trembling frame. His eyes were reflecting a deep and chronic pain, almost like fear. It was as if he had been punched in the gut. I shuffled back slightly and raised my bowed head to look at him. I peered into the deep circles of his eyes; they looked like almonds at the bottom of a stagnant pool of water, gathering moss, the crow’s feet at the corner
s so untimely in their appearance. I looked at his mop of hair. It always reminded me of orange and burgundy autumn leaves, burning in a mound. You could almost smell the flames, “You cannot leave me.” He spoke quietly now, and then suddenly, and with what seemed to be, unintended sharpness, “You cannot take MY child away from me!” It felt as if my heart were falling into my vacant uterus. I felt like a desert lizard, dried out, “What choice do I have?” His grey flannel shirt was frayed at the ends of the sleeves and the shade was fading out from years of relentless washing. My mind flashed to kneeling at the end of his bed, wearing nothing but that tattered flannel and the shyness only untainted youth can bring. He reaches his hand to me, his other behind hi
s head. I crawl toward the comfort and familiarity of his embrace. I rest my head on his chest and feel the warmth of his arms around me.
I snap back
to hollows of his eyes. My mind is like the tormented sea, crashing and pulling its folds of watery sheets violen
tly in raw turquoise fury. He moves to me, I turn around and hug myself; I find no comfort there. I feel the tears touch my eyelids, hot and stinging, like a swarm of bees wildly seeking freedom from the caverns of my irises. There is an overwhelming feeling of dread and happiness consuming me, like a cactus in a sand storm. He puts a strong hand on my waist and moves the long strands of hair off my back and over my shoulder. He kisses the nape of my neck with lips like the petals of a daisy. My mind flash
es to a school bus, the air is warm. He chaos of children throwing notes, screaming, conducting spitting contests and reaping general adolescent chaos, does not affect us. We share a seat, on the left side, and just coexist, looking into each other’s eyes. He reaches into a ratty pocket of his hand-me-down jeans and pulls out a crumpled dollar bill. He folds it into a makeshift ring and gingerly places it on my left ring finger, “Promise me you’ll marry me one day.” He takes both my hands in his, “I promise.” I promise, and I mean it completely. He kisses me.
I snap back.
I’m crying. He turns my body to his and lifts my chin to kiss me. I can feel my mind changing, “You aren’t leaving me.” Have we been here before? I push him and back and try to take a few breaths. My chest feels like a balloon that is loosing its helium. He moves my hair behind my ears with his forefingers. The earth beneath my feet is shifting like silly putty, movable after freshly melted snow. There is a fog all over the grassy field on which we converse. It is like an impenetrable barrier of this impo
ssible reality, “You don’t take care of our baby, I do. I’m her parent, not you. You pretend to care, but you don’t care. I can’t do this anymore.” He grabs both of my hands and holds them to his beating heart, “You are it for me. How can you say that I don’t care? I work from nine in the morning until five at night, at a job I hate, so that I can support my girls. I’m in love with you. Don’t ever fucking say that I don’t care.” I look up into his face; it is bright with the warm side of the colour wheel. The trees and mist behind him fade away, and I only se
e his face. The lines beside his eyes grow more defined as if a toothpick were dragged through the intricate crevices. I tilt my head to one side. My mind flashes to a wooden pier. He kneels in front me, his shape framed by the setting sun behind him, blackening his outline in brilliant hues of pink and gold. He lifts my shirt to reveal my pregnant belly, five months full of our baby girl. She swims sleepily in a pool of infinite serenity. He puts his hands upon my swollen lump, the way he used to hold a basketball before a pass. He runs his thumbs up and down and gently grazes his lips just above my belly button.
Photo by Ace
I snap back.
He lets go of my hands and cups my cheek, running his thumb along my check bone. He looks at me as if I have gutted him like a trophy fish. The sky is darkening all around us; it reminds me of scratch paper after twenty ideas have been demolished by an eraser. He steps back. My heart is a sponge, filled so full it leaks the cloudy waters of my sadness into my blood stream, making me drunk with misery. He, suddenly, and with decrepit reverence, drops to one knee in front of me. The solid oaks are the silent bearers of his testimony. My mind flashes to his dark room, lying on his rickety mattress. The walls papered in vintage posters of The Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and The Riddler. We’ve pushed back the plaid comforter, fresh from the thrift store on State, exposing our bodies, their view dampened only by shadows. He hooks a forefinger on either side of my panties and pulls them over my knees and off. I run my small hands over his skinny, bare, shoulders. I let him come between my thighs. He leans down, brushing his lips on my ear lobe, and whispers, “I love you.” He props himself up on his knees, lifts my hips to his, and takes my virginity.
I snap back.
He is holding a ring, a real ring, “Will you marry me?”
I am absorbed by the crow’s feet, so untimely in their appearance.