If You’d Never

by Wendy Chirikos


CW: Violence

If You’d Never made out with your boyfriend on the sidewalk for all the world to see,

(or lingered in the driveway to suck down that last, nasty cigarette)
(or had the creeping sense that you were being watched)
(or stubbed it out and went inside, locking the door behind you)
(or rushed downstairs)
(or locked your bathroom door, even though you lived alone)
(or washed your face, brushed your teeth, sang, You’re so vain into the bathroom mirror)
(or taken off all your rings, stacking them on your nightstand like a tiny leaning tower on top of the memory book you were making for Ian)
(or folded the clothes you’d left on the floor that morning)
(or had the creeping sense that you were being watched)
(or noticed, out of the corner of your eye, his pale moon face at your basement bedroom window)
(or felt your blood freeze)
(or felt it turn to fire)
(or rushed back up the stairs)
(or burst through the back screen door)
(or yelled into the darkness of his mother’s backyard, asking what the fuck he was doing, what the fuck was he doing looking into your bedroom window like some fucking creepy-ass fucker)
(or remembered what your mother always told you: take a breath before you speak — that temper of yours, Meelie, she said, that temper of yours)
(or called him a fucking loser, anyway)
(or taken the first slap)
(or the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth)
(or slapped back)
(or let yourself be pulled to the ground)
(or let yourself be dragged)
(or kicked and flailed and anything-ed and everything-ed as he grabbed your hair with both hands)
(or lifted your head as it was being drilled into the pavement)
(or tried lifting it once more)
(or kept your eyes focused on his lips as your blood left your body, startled by the force at which it spurted and shot, staining his white Gap t-shirt, splattering his mother’s pool heater)
(or kept your eyes focused on his lips spitting, Whore! Whore! Whore!)
(or gulped for air, again and again, as his knee pushed into your solar plexus)
(or wondered, randomly, if it was true about a mother’s love, how her connection to her baby was unbreakable, for always, even twenty-five years on, even if she’d given that baby away, gotten married, had other children and a whole life without her, how still — and there was some word for it, but you couldn’t think with your head throbbing in echoes — even if she were miles and states away, your birth mother, at that very moment, would feel her lungs seize, a catch in the pit of her gut, and know that something was very, very wrong)
(or clenched your fists)
(or opened your eyes wide, wider, even as that got harder)
(or closed them because it was easier)
(or remembered to breathe…and how that hurt…that temper of yours)
(or said you were sorry, sorry, you were so very sorry, thinking that might help)
(or asked him to help you, please)
(or wondered if she could feel you)
(or thought, if only you had breathed earlier)

maybe, Amelia, you wouldn’t have gotten yourself killed.

Wendy Chirikos lives in Boulder, CO, with her husband and two children. Her writing has appeared Parhelion Lit, Cabinet of Heed, Lunate, Bending Genres and Homestead Review, among others, and she is a past recipient of a James Kirkwood Prize in Creative Writing from UCLA.


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