I am the bruise. In my season I was beautiful. I bloomed like ripe fruit on the flesh, tiny pomegranate seeds taking root in the pores as my fingers spread to touch the eye. Next to my red, angry glory the green iris gleamed like a jewel. As I aged, I deepened into a lovely wine color, then sky-dark, then brightened to a wan yellow. Now I am weakening, slowly disappearing. Now I resemble a giant, pale freckle that was faded fast by winter.
I am the face. I saw it coming. I wrinkled up my whole being and turned away, my lips clamped between the teeth and eyes squinting shut. My nose just sat there. I was sweating. I had not been washed that morning. A fine film of oil and grime covered me. The whole day I felt filthy. And that night—a sharp pain. A steady throb followed. Since then I have been washed, scrubbed, bathed. Slathered with cold cream and different colors. So many brushes, so many dabbing fingers slide across my skin, drawing me tight and dressing me for the world. Sometimes I talk to the hair, combed close over my right eye. The hair is very wise. Hair is used to counting casualties. When my eyes leak it tickles my cheek to cheer me up.
We are the arms. We tried, we really did. Raised up, burning for a fight, locked in a near-parallel formation like iron bars, too late. We watched as the fist swept past us. In the following days we placed ourselves around two people. One smelled of cigarettes and ash. The other smelled like wheat and sun. Like summer. We lingered in the arms of summer.
We are the hands. We are ashamed. Our fingers balled up at first, the palms ignoring the piercing nails. When the fist struck we grasped at the air and found floor. Afterward, we covered the face.
The face cried and cried. We draped our fingertips over its skin like a blanket, collecting tears like sea glass.
We are the knees. We know the bite of concrete, of low-pile carpet. We know the burn of sheets washed in hard water and the slow ache of rough-hewn plank floor. The face pleaded. The hands clenched. The fist came through, knocked us all to the ground. We did our best to carry everyone to the corner. We never straighten, not even in bed. Seems like we’ve been forever curled.
We are the feet. We didn’t have time. We waited until it was over, then limped off to a soft place. But we will find time now. We will be heroes now. Soon we will slip down, find the floor in secret. Soon we will beat our own rhythm out the door, through the grass. We will wait until night and rally the others from a half-sleep. We will bear them up like a whispering and unstoppable river current and carry them toward the smell of early June. Carry them to salvation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ashley Hutson has fiction and poetry either published or forthcoming in The Lascaux Review, Red River Review, and Boston Literary Magazine. She was also a 2014 Orlando Prize Short Fiction finalist. She lives in Sharpsburg, MD.