Let’s start here, with the broken tooth that feels sharp like rock candy across her tongue and the rain that won’t stop pounding against the roof of her car. Her headlights bounce across the trees and the slick pavement, and she can imagine her car flipping and landing on the side of the road with her body pinned to the seat. Her head won’t stop pounding and her muscles are so tight they feel like they might snap. She stops at the first gas station she has seen in miles. There is a man at the other pump with a white truck wearing cowboy boots and a green poncho. He smiles at her and it looks like he is sucking on something sour. She ducks inside the convenience store and in the mirror in the restroom, she can see that the bruise across her jaw is turning purple and feels soft like rotting fruit. There’s a woman at the register whose knuckles look red and swollen and her cheeks are loose with age. When she steps to the counter to pay for her candy and coffee, the woman keeps her eyes on a muted TV in the corner and doesn’t say a word.
Let’s start here, with her need to get to the beach, to feel the sand in her palms and hear the ocean waves swallowing themselves over and over. Last night, she stopped at a cheap motel and paid fifty dollars for the room. The comforter smelled like mildew and the wallpaper was peeling off in strips of bright orange flowers. When she pulled back the sheets she found a dead cockroach and thought about sleeping on the floor but couldn’t tell if it was brown, to begin with, or if that was how it ended up. She slept fully clothed with her shoes on and covered the pillowcase with an extra t-shirt. A fight in the parking lot woke her up in the middle of the night, and she jumped out of bed, disoriented, and tripped and hit her face against the edge of the wooden table by the window. She spent the rest of the night swallowing blood. In the morning she looked for the rest of her tooth but never found it.
Let’s start here, with her husband who thinks she’s crazy and who didn’t understand why she was so upset when he told her that he didn’t feel like he knew her anymore. He slept in the guest room with the dog and she left a note by the coffeepot and his lunch in the fridge. As she drives, she thinks about the night they met. She was on a date with one of his friends but couldn’t stop staring at his blue eyes. After that, he called her every day, and he kissed her for the first time on a bench outside of a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and his mouth tasted like pistachios and vanilla. She thinks about the woman he slept with for a year while she was pregnant with their son and how she pretended not to notice the receipts for movie tickets and hotels that would show up in his pockets. She thinks about how the smell of his aftershave makes her nostalgic for her father and how she told him that once after a few glasses of wine. He had looked at her with something like revulsion in his eyes and she had laughed. She thinks about how she’s made his meals for twenty-seven years, shaved his back for twenty-seven years, creased every pair of pants he owns for twenty-seven years. She thinks about how she has loved him for twenty-seven years.