I walk back in black mud splatter with hunger clawing at my throat. I lengthen my stride for speed but stop short. A bar door thrusts open, catches my jaw dead-on. The steel is rusted red and blurs my sight before I blink. I spill a new shade of red in its wake. Spittle and bits of broken teeth drip out all crunched up down my front. I wipe the blood with mud-caked mitts. A high pitch rings on repeat. Targets soft spots in my skull. I lose my speech and spins settle in.
They lift me by threads, drag out an empty seat to set me straight. I gulp one down and then another. They speak all chopped up and screwed. The liquid burns my gut. They pry my mouth and shove it with ice. It feels good to suck. The ice melt coats my tongue. I relax, release a wet heat. It stings down my legs, moistens the cracks.
Lumped mud and cow shit clunk loose from my boots. I nod for a full glass. The pour is heavy and liquid dark brown. The sharp taste goes down easy. I stumble home at blackout pace. Warm my meal on the stove. She hates it when I’m late. I keep things to myself, spoon through thick stew. She stands by the doorway when I stink. I don’t blame her when I’m hungry. I shave scraps of spice to stir in. The bowl steam layers my face. Beads bulb the skin where beard won’t grow. I shovel the hot slop by handfuls. In the doorway I imagine her mouth curling up a smile. She stays still ’til I’m filled with food. It’s time to clean up. She can not smile. She is long gone.
I save the dishes and undress. The bath is lukewarm and puddle deep. I dip in and feel the shrivel. I hack away at dark parts, leave few spots unscrubbed. I watch out for wounds. Friction foments new flow. She sits on the cold toilet fidgeting herself. I can almost see her, close enough to touch. My skin tightens and rises clear of the filth. Veins pulse atop stiff twitches. Skin peels and smacks open and closed. My infection burns less. I forget about my infection. I forget about the beating. I forget I am alone. She lowers herself. Fat ass first. I burst before she settles. Scummy silk clouds the tub. I feel all my lack.
Kelly Stark is a writer and musician living in Maine.
Lead image: “Water Blobs” (via Flickr user Alan Levine)