lip and teeth

17 years after he placed barrel to lip and teeth I cried for the bullet that broke open his face, silently, suddenly, in sunlight states and years away from the 13 year old that I had been- a parent now, an adult question mark, seduced to sudden grief by a too-familiar song as I drove my child to school.

He shot himself the summer that I lost my virginity, the summer between middle and high school; I was at the movies, he with his father’s shot gun at home. His parents found him, the trail of his blood on carpet and walls.

He lived. They made him a face from rubber tubes and skin grafts. He held his breath and blew his tracheotomy at people who stared, smoked through the hole in his neck. Later we dated, planned to marry; a ridiculous and earnest relationship between two bisexual drug addicted high school drop outs with a plethora of “problems at home”.

I cried when he relapsed, lied; I cried when I cheated on him; I cried when we broke up, fucked, and broke up again. I cried when he dated my sister; when he started dealing; when he came home late without calling, and I was unreasonably,  inexplicably convinced that he’d died in a car crash.

I cried because he was an asshole, because his skin tasted like home, because my body broke in waves on his cock, even when I hated him.

But I never cried for that bullet, the eruption of his sweet boy face, his stupid-young life- never grieved for him or for me or for any of us, a bunch of fucked up kids in a town too small, hell bent on breaking something- them, each other, ourselves.

He is married, now, the first boy I loved married to the first girl I loved; they have a child I have never met. We don’t speak, won’t. I will likely never see them again, which is maybe why now, suddenly, I can cry for him, can see him and me as kids with drugs and fire arms and sad songs and sex, stupid tools we armed ourselves with against dysfunctional families, Baptist churches, school paddlings, and black skies vast and fat with stars, knowing as we did that there was nothing between us and the night surrounding but the Zippo fire we built together with fistfuls of pine needles and thin-skin scripture, hungry to rise, to feed, to burn.

I’m full of all kinds of sudden, stupid, and inexplicable grievings right now. Even still I wake in a fierce and sudden panic, unsure of where I am, of how all of this happened, could have possibly happened. This is, I’m sure, a healing of sorts, but it feels like a soggy and sleepless and slow falling apart, a bloat of shame and fear.  I read a lot of immigrant stories- stories of crossings and permanent loss, stories of home-country and old lands and can-never-go-backs.  Every cell in my body rejects this transplant, and so I am sick, and so I look for home in bits and pieces, in the curve of my partner’s back, my child’s slow deep breath in sleep, the still-ticking of a broken clock that I brought with us from Georgia.

I think of salmon, their drive to return, how they beat themselves against rocks and falls and flows, eating themselves from the inside, shedding scales and flesh. Salmon, the thrash and leap and break of them, their gasps with gills red, thick, rapid with hunger to go back, to go back, to go back home- even as certain death awaits them, home, where their bodies break to mud and pack as sediment over the bodies of their ancestors; home, where they will spawn and lay to rest; fins, spines, fragile cracked ribs draped with cloth-like flesh dried and bleached with sun; I think of salmon, laid to rest to rot and nurture the as-yet yolk-bound bodies of their aliven, bodies home, bodies belonging, home, home.

I look for home in the bodies of salmon, their skeletons filigreed with mud and mold, garlanded over rock and branch. I am at home with salmon, at home with my beloved, at home with my child, the slow and steady ticking of a clock. My sudden grievings are the live arteries- oxygenated, pulsing- connecting me to the old land, the home land, the wounds and losses I carried, senseless now, out of time and context. I will heal them and be a stranger to myself; raw, found, making shit up, making new again, new.

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