Beloved (part 3 of 7)

Dawn ignites the bus station: grimy, red-eyed with smoke and exhaust, groaning with the weight of its vehicles, its weariness, its thousand moving parts. A description not far removed from herself. She runs her hand over the scars on her wrist to remember the first bus station in this long line of cracked mirror restrooms and broken benches and graffiti tile.

The old monk in quiet saffron robes ran his coffee-skin finger down the scars on her arms. The old burns, the cuts. “Oh my child,” he whispers. “Oh my child.My daughter, what have they done unto thee.” She held herself bitter against him because she believed him insane and she envied that, having never quite reached that oblivion. She always knew exactly what she was doing. Every time.

But this is another story.

A story consistent with matches, the way gasoline trembles and explodes at the barest kiss of heat. Unlike the story that is the temperature of ice, blue ice chips floating in black Arctic oceans. The temperature of her blood to at last see the enemy between her bed sheets, to discover not even a woman she knew, but a stranger with smoked honey in her voice who claimed her name was Angelina. Who says, “I’m here for his things. He’s going to be staying in my loft now, until his hands heal. He broke bones for you, you little witch. You heartless witch. Is that what you call love?” She had no weapons to reply to that. She touched the necklace of bruises from the scarf and the broken skin from the pavement where she fell through his useless hands. “He said he wants his things back,” Angelina grinned. A frosted pink poison, a glint in the eyes of a dagger twisting into the throat of a victim bound hand and foot. Unable to escape.

While they’re loading the bus, she stops by the fruit vendor and purchases three lemons, a bag of raisins and one flower, the fire petals already wilting in her hand in the morning heat. The bus groans down the road, across train tracks. A sky that prophecies of rain, a mud brick horizon, a man in beige shorts walks barefoot down the tracks, his shirt slung over his shoulders. How mundane his life must be, she thinks, palms spread flat against the dirty windowpane. How boring. How I desire it.

“How can I love you if it’s killing us,” her husband said, after that latest fight when she slammed her face into the glass medicine cabinet, and he stabbed himself in the hip in an attempt to outdo her. Even then they knew that the quickest and most efficient way to break each other was to break themselves. And then he won after he discovered how to break her using someone else.

She bites into the lemon, tearing through the peel, sucking the juice and pulp across her tongue, into her throat. She says three Hail Mary’s on the acid taste, and tacks on Forgive Us Our Trespasses. She uses the bitterness as an excuse for the blur of tears that she won’t let fall, not this time. They hover around her eyes, cataracts that erase the horizon, the town, the man, the sky, the world.

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