Refraction

Winner of the Spring 2016 Story Contest

Refraction
by Sarah King

13 months ago we moved in because there was a $100 deposit and first month’s free rent. We didn’t have shit to our name except clothes, a bed, desk and rickety dressers older than I am. By Christmas, we had pieced together a fully furnished home, and I was quickly learning the different facets of loving an addict.

I wore bruises beneath sweatshirts in solitary, dull black arms “too embarrassing” to go out. I spent sleepless nights wondering if 3 a.m. sirens were carrying a white body found too deep in the South Side. I studied for finals beside blood stained hardwood, wakened by seizing bones on the floor. I kept my head down and broken nose clean. I lost job opportunities and easy As because prying eyes couldn’t understand the chunks of flesh, gashed fingers, were from smashing glass roses in hopes of forsaking fiendish Devils.

How do you hang to the fraying leash of debt, innocence, proof and life — but alone? Slung tight across your back? Not a noose, but close.

I walked across this threshold to find my dog frenzied at the Feds. I cried curled beside him. I bit back tears when he was re-homed. I peered at these ceilings when I awoke, day after day, grateful for the shallow breaths beside me. I peered harder until I slept, swathed by syncopated stillness, grateful for the end of each day. I saw greed and guns and no glory in the kitchen.

Pipedreams.

I watched life seep away slowly with dissipating smoke. I watched husks form from the bowels of silver spoons.

It’s been a long 13 months. The eviction notice on the door seemed like a pathetic, leering last jab. How can you steal unsacred space? But as I look around these walls a final time, I see the scars of our presence — and I’m not sorry. The harrowed existence is past.

I’m turning my back with windows wide open. The threshold of recovery close. The wind whispers her impermanent blessings, apologies. And despite the wars of attrition waged here: there is life. Not even crack can crack raw, unprecedented faith in the human spirit’s survival.

Revival.

13 months later I’ve packed up a lot of our shit, and given away a lot more. I saw happiness manifested in the bare walls of the opportunity this empty apartment offered us a year and some change ago. The walls need new paint and the holes filling — but try and tell me as I look around at sunlight snatching through their sorrows that we ain’t gone be alright.

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