Age 24

by Christopher Sturdy

What I tell her,

my therapist, is how a tiny pressure cooker sits,

vice-gripped between my teeth, housing

nails & pins & ball bearings,

its ticking tempering the tempo of my temper

like a metronome failing to keep time.


What I fear

is the explosion & the nothing & the silence.

And I know that doesn’t make sense, but think

about ball bearings shattering enamel,

and nails perforating cheek bones,

and pins puncturing gums, and you start

to understand my father.


What I fear

is the strength of my father, who—

with his weakest physical body, post-chemo, post-

radiation, post-muscle—was able to move

asteroids with a midnight meltdown, shatter a pane

of tempered glass with no rings on fingers, no blood trick-

ling off skin, before his pressure cooker burst

and he didn’t speak for three years.


What I didn’t foresee

is how she will tell me there is no pressure

cooker at all, how it’s made it

up, and how to let it go.


What I don’t know yet

is how she is right.

Christopher Sturdy is an MFA Fiction Candidate at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington. Previously, he taught high school English for six years in his home state, Minnesota, and worked as an associate editor for Chautauqua Literary Journal. When he’s not scribbling scenes down for his thesis, he tutors elementary students and bartends to pay the bills.


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