Nicole Reid is the second place winner in the 2009 Literary Awards Program. This week, we’ll be excerpting from the prologue and the first section of her entry, This One Last Thing.
This was my boy. These are my girls. He, that man, is my something.
These are my earlobes. This is my nose. Here are my shoulders; my clavicles hold storms. This is my elbow, my ulna, my basilic vein, my round thumb knuckle, my spinning gold ring.
My skin so taut, like holding its breath.
These are my toes, my ankles, my shins. Flip me around for my calves—like granite, like thoroughbreds after the derby, all shine and contraction. My knees with their dimples, bone sucking skin. Here is my waist. My hand. My fingers nearly touch, if I wrap both around my middle, and I do. I do.
Count my ribs, strum them. Or simply see. Sternum, little-girl breasts with spring pinecone nipples. I have the gymnast’s pelvis: more bone than bite; in the way, protrusionary. Here are my hipbones, two fists beneath the covers. My thighs, my thighs! Standing, my thighs leave a triangle, rectangle of light, of air.
And best, put me in the kitchen, my kitchen, and I won’t crack. It’s the home of all absence, all restraint. My cupboards. My fridge shelves lined full. Labels straightened, boxes squared. The milk always in half-gallons. The eggs always brown. Red-needled scale set back from the counter’s edge so little fingers, little careless people, grabby and insatiable, won’t disturb its tare—which is important, which is everything. A silver dish atop, removable, washable. Notepad and pen. Pocket calculator, blue keys. I am the epitome of restraint.
But for how long?
This is the Blacksburg house, where I will tip like Humpty off the wall and can’t be put back together again. Ten, fifteen, maybe all my years to get here, to August 1982. The house where my girls become timid and learn not to speak to me. Where I hit our boy (who I am incapable of satisfying) with the car once, years ago, and killed him—let’s get that right out between us now, that he was my punishment but I didn’t mean to and things happen and that’s that. You will hate me in this house because you will look for answers I cannot show you and you will hate me like they will hate me; because I am weak.
They, you, believe in sources. Believe in traumas. You want to blame something that came before. But what if there is only me? No, nothing without cause, they say. A before B before CDE. You all insist on reasonable appetites. On natural sensation. On the ability to be sated and calm in the face of wanting nothing more. You think the belly cries louder than the mouth, with its bored tongue, its rotting useless teeth.
You haven’t any idea.
For God’s sake, you think you know hunger.