By Soojin Lee
Winner of the 2017 Amendment Literary Award
The vaulted ceiling of early morning and hemlock canopy float around you like a vulture. I can see your fjord-water-blue eyes from this bird’s eye view. You look up at me—a splayed and pinned Vitruvian man encircled in heavy sleep. You turn your head on a bed of peanut brittle leaves snapping in your ears. Get up, Matt.
You are in the woods because you tried to die, again. You don’t remember how you got there but there is a handle of vodka that you emptied spun away from you. Some dirty brown dope, too. Throat rusty and raw, steaming with chemical waste, you shake off the pieces of floor clinging to your back and legs and shoe laces. Your head is thick and splitting at the middle where your brow bone bulges. Your porkchop-pink petal lips, lovely and improbable in their flat face and sharp angles, pull and twitch in fleshy telegraph rhythms I can’t remember anymore while you gather yourself.
“I don’t mean to scare you, Sarah, but one day you might just get a call from someone saying I’m in a ditch somewhere, inconsolably muttering your name over and over. “
I am thinking about you in handcuffs. A couple years before I really knew you. Your dad’s shoulders filling out that orange jumper you’re in and curling forward at the corners. The imitation pine-wood table you are shackled to was probably the same imitation cork beige as the one my keyboard is resting on. Your dad’s eyes are an even deeper blue than yours. His are usually cut like razors set in dry ice, but they’re warmed and bleeding saltwater. His massive frame rapidly losing its emotionless turgor, an ocean flowing out of him.
“Please, your honor, my son’s tried to kill himself three times this year. He just needs help. I don’t know what to do anymore.”
Other than that time you two went fishing and he didn’t mean to kill that fish, this is the only time you see him cry. Big, bad Greg. He’s built like a wolf and he’s in the business of protecting foreign dignitaries. I wonder when he kissed you and held you last. Probably not since you were a baby, that fleshy soft formlessness that he could still relate to. Before you were socialized and began to confuse him, moving with too much agility for him to lock onto you. Cleaning his guns and calculating the chess of his life was much simpler. Point A to B. Black backpack full of tactical gear and clear acetate voices in his ear driving a bomb-proof Cadillac- but Greg can’t protect his baby from his death drive.
He kisses my cheek and hugs me and even though I am looking at your coffin over his shoulder. I can feel your yearning. He used to choke on his tenderness like it was wrenched out of him, like his heart was gagging. He would cough when he said hello to me softly, trying not to scare me. Our first hug, but he is not opening the door for me so I can bring you waffles with blueberries and watch you iron and starch your shirt. I miss you so much.