Sarah C Murray CC
It’s not your fault, my therapist says. I look out the window as a homeless man walks by, shirtless and sunburned, cargo pants sagging from the sharp bones of his pelvis, blonde dreadlocks knotted at the nape of his neck, two or three inches of grow-out at the roots. You’re a different person than you were eight years ago, she says, and so is he. My husband, she means. I sigh and turn back to face her, this woman who has known me less than a year, who has yet to see me cry or get angry in her office on the first floor of a 1900s Victorian in Browne’s Addition. I know more than you, I want to say, but what good would that do? So I just nod for the next half hour, tell her she’s right about everything. And then I leave, unchanged, rain falling on my face as I walk to the car.
Coral light on wet pavement this morning, like how it is in the summer when all the forests are burning and smoke surrounds the city. I’m thinking of firing my therapist because I can’t tell her the truth. You fall in love too easily, my friend said after learning I’m a Pisces. I’m in love with everyone except myself. A train carves through a field of yellow flowers up north, pine-covered mountains in the distance—early yet, but all of it will go up in flames.
The white sheets fall from the clothesline and get all twisted up on the lawn like an unmade bed. Peonies open beneath the pine tree, and my husband says they look like labia, the thrush and curl of dark pink petals, wet with dew. I ignore the laundry and lift one of the flowers, its bloom as big as my face. I inhale and taste a fleeting sweetness at the back of my throat.
What is meant for me? I walk the dirt road with my mother, past the pond with ducks and coots and geese churning the water, cows standing at the shallow edges trying to stay cool in the heat. Past the wild rose bushes, bright green swaths of farmland, hilltop houses with metal roofs and chicken coops in the backyard. My mother says she walked to the hospital on the day my brother was born because she had an appointment. Any time now, the doctor said, and sent her home. She was back four hours later with labor pains. She worked until the day I was born, teaching business classes to single moms, high school students and recovering addicts at the community college. Even so, she only took a few weeks off afterwards, eager to return to that world where she could lift a finger to her lips and the whole room would go quiet, waiting for her to speak. I want to ask if she’s ever miscarried, but I have a feeling the answer is no. Mom, I want to say, I’m worried about everything. But there are birds in my throat, white doves, so I say nothing.
Someone rings the doorbell at the worst time. We’re fighting in the kitchen, and when the bell tolls we both go quiet. I’m crying, so no way in hell am I answering the door. My husband hesitates before turning, walking away. Just a neighbor wanting to shoot the shit, that’s all. He leans in the doorframe and talks shop with the neighbor for a few minutes before saying sorry, gotta go—dinner’s almost ready. I’m done crying by the time he comes back. I’m done with the whole damn night. My husband reaches for me and I want it, his arms around my waist, my tear-stained cheek pressed against his shoulder, sadness hanging above us like smoke from whatever is burning on the stovetop, whatever we’ve forgotten.
Janelle Cordero is an interdisciplinary artist and educator living in Spokane, WA. Her writing has been published in dozens of literary journals, including Harpur Palate, Autofocus and Hobart, while her paintings have been featured in venues throughout the Pacific Northwest. Janelle is the author of four books of poetry, including Impossible Years (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, 2022). Stay connected with Janelle's work at www.janellecordero.com and follow her on Instagram @janelle_v_cordero.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.