Jeff

Amanda Stopa

Amanda Stopa

In his earliest memory, he watches his sister pee on the carpet of her bedroom floor while he looks on from the closet. He remembers seeing his dad rub her face into the ground like a dog, how this made him hold his breath for twenty years. He doesn’t remember biting himself—what that could taste like—but he remembers the psychologist asking him why he thinks his dad left.

“Where did your dad go?”

With the woman, with the children.

“Why did he go with her?”

Because I have a hard time learning how to read.

 

When his sister found out about the closet, he started hiding under the bed, in the bathtub, behind the shower curtain. He remembers all the girls she practiced with, what it feels like for the body to harden like wax, the chest and breath flickering like a flame. He remembers thinking, we’re  the same. We have the same body. We’re from the same one body. Two body. Some body. Same body. One body. He remembers the moment he realized what her body was capable of, how girls turn into women and the body learns to menstruate. He learned in the eighth grade that his sister’s body was not his body, and he hated her for it. He remembers how much he wanted to go back to being the same, jealous, even thinking how warm it must be—all that blood held so close to the outside of the skin. He remembers that this is when he stopped hiding in the bathroom.

 

When he paces at night, he remembers his first girlfriend, how teenagers don’t know any better. He remembers her every time he smells chlorine, the smell of chemicals lightly burning the flesh, knowing her body was clean. He remembers picking her up from swim practice so that he could visit her house, even though he hated her house. He remembers her mother, a large woman with a rusty voice and the house she kept, but didn’t keep—allowing her two rottweiler’s to piss everywhere. He still thinks someone should have disciplined them. Someone could have made them better.

He remembers the first time he was given sex. That he gave his girlfriend a necklace, for Christmas, and that is when her body thanked him. He remembers seeing the blood.

O God O God O God. I hurt her. She’s hurting. All this blood and I can’t stop because I’m not done. And blood comes from pulsing so I gotta keep pulsing. O God O God. Please…

And he remembers how much he loved the way it felt. She stopped talking to him after he gave her the necklace. He remembers this as a trade.

*

He doesn’t remember why he offered this woman a ride. He remembers seeing her walk out of the movie theatre alone, walking towards the bus stop.

“Hey—you shouldn’t be waiting out here alone at night. Let me give you a ride.”

He remembers how easy it was to make her smile, how glad he was to help. He can’t remember if he meant to hurt her when she smiled. He remembers she smelled like peppermint, clean. He can’t remember whether or not it was planned, when he pulled the car over, but he didn’t fight it when he grabbed for her throat, threw her shoulders back and used the seatbelt for leverage.

He remembers needing this more than anything else.

He remembers not knowing if she was the first or last, but that she reminded him of his sister. He remembers where he left her: that he didn’t mean to hurt her. In his mind, he keeps counting the paces to the oak tree, its wet boughs sheltering the separation of dirt and grass, remembering how that scent can burn into one’s memory. When he is pacing, sometimes he is thinking about how badly he wants to go out there, and remember what happened.

1 Comment

  1. Terrific piece, Amanda. I love what you do with repetition and POV. The plot path surprised me – a lot. Congratulations on the publication.

    Jeanette

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