Casualty

byWillow Rain©

We all sit, carefully placed apart,
coats like barbed wire.
I don’t want to know their stories.
They don’t want to know mine.
We are hostile countries
that avoid eye contact.

My sister says my name once,
and I realize how rarely I have heard her say it out loud.
Years between us, some how,
each others names have become trivial,
but not today.
I can hardly recognize her voice
in the frigid silence.
I fumble with my wallet and hand her
the things that are hers:
an I.D., her credit card and a neatly folded check.
I cannot bear to look at the check.
I fear his name is scrawled inside in a casual hand.

She disappears back beyond the door where all the others have gone.

The room is so full
I am uneasy
and try to be small
pulling all that I am tight and close into myself.
Emotions move in the air
like chemical warfare.

There are young boys who bring in their women
and drop them off like they are leaving them in a day spa,
as if pedicures and facials
awaited them beyond the white door.
Some of them do not return before
their pale girlfriends come wavering out,
torture victims with refugee eyes.
One fragile blond emerges lost, and dazed.
She goes in and out of the door looking for the boy who is not there.
She doesn’t even have her coat.
He took it with him.
She wanders out into the parking lot with a blue bathrobe with yellow ducks on it pulled around her bare arms.
wearing the uniform of a child,
that is not thick enough to keep a woman warm against
the cold
or loneliness.

The magazines on the tables are not old.
They are new.
They are not the magazines of mothers.
Vogue, Fashion, Elle, they scream out about glamour
and freedom.
The perfect suit, to flatter a slender figure.
Fashionable shoes to wear on a weekend getaway
with that new man.

Everyone here needs a new man.

On the wall there is a picture that I begin to hate,
a print of a sad young woman in charcoal.
Her face and sadness are well defined, but her body is all gestures of mist.
Insubstantial.
Unreal.
I resent every stroke of the image as I look at it.
I want to take it off the wall and turn it around so that it doesn’t face me.
My sister and her real body are beyond that wall
spitting out a baby into a suction tube.

I ask twice how she is doing.
They tell me she is in recovery and they will check,
chipper, bright eyed, cheery nurses that never give me answers.
I want to stab one with the dangling chained pen.
I want someone else to be a casualty.

Second to the last,
she comes out
looking surprisingly strong.
Her color is better now
than our trip here, when she was puking into plastic bags
one after another.
We talk in the car.
We look at the list.

In the pharmacy she tells me that she is going to sit down.
After a moment she asks for the keys, as I look for the recommended cold packs.
When I go out to the car I don’t see her.
I briefly panic and look back toward the store
as if I’ve lost her,
as if she is MIA.

Then I see her.
She is curled on her side in the back seat of my car.
Quiet.
The general brought low.
She does not cry,
but her body secretly does
bright red tears.



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