Over beers he tells me secrets. Remembers to say, “Don’t tell nobody.” And I wanted to be good, to give comfort in that moment, like the woman I always wanted to be. I did other things for him though, that he would tell others, no doubt, over whiskey and cigarettes. We were both so ugly in that way, a remnant of the lower life we’d both been born too. My secrets were not worth keeping.
Once, he borrowed some wheels. We took off to the country. “Let’s pretend,” he said. We crashed for the night in a friend’s barn. Our bodies lay on the straw. Somehow, we wanted cows, but there were none. We longed to look into their dumb eyes and feel superior. He was afraid of the dark, so I slept for the both of us with my eyes open.
In the morning, we raced through rain to his friend’s front porch, and bounced on the brown couch with the pink cabbage flowers. We lit out damp cigarettes, picked the straw from each other’s hair. “Who are we kidding?” he asked. I felt his anger rise. He began to deconstruct me until I was nothing more than the straw I picked off my lean body. He’d already forgotten that we shared a moment in that barn, something we may live to regret.
“Don’t tell anybody,” he said, like a groove stuck in an old, warped record. I heard the low animal wail of something hard to identify. We really weren’t country people. I said, “Let’s get out of here,” but I didn’t have to. He was already ahead of me.
Michelle Reale is an academic librarian on faculty at a university in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Her work has been published in a variety of venues including Smokelong Quarterly, JMWW, Pank, The Los Angeles Review, elimae and many others. Her work was included in Dzanc’s Best of the Web 2010. Her fiction chapbook, Natural Habitat, was published by Burning River in 2010.