by Maria Nazos
Featured Art: “Illusion of My Studio” by Yan Sun
When I exited the stall, she was standing at the sink.
I knew her best from one night at the bar, when she’d said
my ex was handsome. Then asked whether I’d mind if she
called him later that night. I’d pressed my lips together
and said, go ahead, certain she held an unspoken malice
which young women carry into small towns. I’d moved
to the Cape to escape from my talent for tearing through
love, only to follow a trail of broken glass into every bar.
Only to find every fisherman with a penchant for failed
marriages and pot, and myself, again,
staying up too long and late.
As I stood beside her in the bathroom, washing my hands,
I thought of another night when she’d told me, as if casually
draping a dark blouse across a stool, that her father had just died.
I’d squeezed her hand. She pushed her blonde hair off her face,
said, that’s okay. But I’d seen her at the bar every night since,
drinking with a red-haired fisherman who’d tried to strangle
his ex. I shook my hands dry. Tear my shirt, she urged, interrupting
my reverie. Why? I asked. Did she want to show off
her seashell-curved cleavage or simply feel something
besides her heart splitting down the middle?
Are you sure? I said. Tear it,
she said. There was a notch in her collar where she’d begun.
I tugged until more stitches popped. Recalled last Tuesday
when I’d asked her, who are your friends? and she’d said, I keep
to myself, like you, but thought we could be friends. I was insulted,
but flattered she’d found me out: a barfly who flitted
like a painted moth onto the Cape. So, in the bathroom, I split
her shirt down to the collarbone. More, she insisted. It’s a nice shirt,
I said. Just do it. I gave another rip. A deep V formed above her breasts.
She put her hands over mine.
Together, as we tore, I remembered
that the week after her father died, I saw her on the beach
in the morning, walking a collie. She smelled like gin. Her eyes
were glazed and she clutched a dirty pink bear. She kept saying,
this is his toy, but he won’t play. Then laughed so hard her fillings
showed. I’d been picking up sea glass and shells, to remind myself
I wasn’t alone—Go ahead, fucking rip it. I looked at her
and tore. Good, she said. Then we parted ways, strangers,
again, into the last shred of night.
Maria Nazos’s writing been published in The New Yorker, The Tampa Review, Mid-American Review, and elsewhere. She is the author of A Hymn That Meanders, (Wising Up Press, 2011) and the chapbook Still Life (Dancing Girl Press, 2016). She has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and scholarships from The Sewanee Writers’ Conference. A recent graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s English Ph.D. program, she can be found at marianazos.com.