Back to Issue Thirty-Two



I’m going to die because someone is going to hit me. They’re going to hit me with their car while I’m crossing the street.

I’m sitting on the curb, legs splayed out like a loose garden hose. It’s late, dark. My phone is a rock in my hand. Boyfriend said he would call soon. When I’m crossing the street, I’m going to be holding his hand.

I never picture him dead. He has beautiful shoulders. They’re a little wider than mine, the muscles more readily available. Stretch marks radiate from his armpits like a little kid’s drawing of the sun. Non-toxic. Never break my teeth on them. They were wild to me when I first saw them. I grew up so slowly, one or two inches every year of high school until I just stopped. He said he shot up six inches in one year, so fast not even his skin could keep up.

I guess I can picture it if I make myself. Shoulders; ground. Head; ground. I don’t want to though. Not that I want to see myself either, but I see myself—headlights stilled across my body.

There aren’t many streetlights here. The city’s passed too many laws limiting light pollution. Telescope observatories dot the nearby mountains. MMTO on Mt. Hopkins. KPNO on Kitt Peak. VATT on Mt. Graham. On one of our first dates we went stargazing and Boyfriend pointed out Orion. The belt. His hand rested on my own, my hip. We were on a pedestrian bridge stretching over downtown. I kissed him, kept kissing, even when other people walked past.

Boyfriend’s out of town, visiting some friends in St. Paul. The street isn’t busy. None of the houses have garages. Cars sit out, inanimate, in gravel yards.

Some states only allow the few top inches of a car’s windshield to be tinted. Others require a percentage of light transmission. It’s illegal to be unable to see the driver. I read that it’s to help the police, to make it less dangerous when they pull someone over. I’m not scared for them.

When Boyfriend calls, I’ll have to walk. I can never stay still when I’m talking. He loves how I fidget. Rip leaves off trees. Fold napkins into little squares. Chew the ends of straws. He jokes that I have an oral fixation, won’t take his eyes off my mouth.

I rip the beds of my fingernails too. When Boyfriend sees, he puts my fingers in his mouth. One at a time, he slicks down the sheets of my skin; he says spit has some healing factor. After, out of his mouth, eyes on the ground, I curl my hand back to myself; I thank him. And I mean it. I do.

Sometimes I can’t look at him.

What if the person who hits me says that they couldn’t see? They were looking at Boyfriend; they didn’t see me. If it happens now: It was too dark. I blended into the background. It was an accident. But my phone, Boyfriend against my face, is a light. They would be lying.

I’m bringing Boyfriend home soon. Home home, across the country, back to the hills, Kentucky bluegrass yards, and my parents. We’re driving one thousand or so miles. Twenty-three hours. The first time I drove back I did it all in one sitting. Boyfriend didn’t like it when I told him that. Said I could have crashed. He said it like it hadn’t already happened. He could picture me falling asleep at the wheel, drifting into the opposite lane, and dissolving into a head-on collision. I was right next to him. His hand rode my thigh.

Boyfriend’s dad once sat us down on their L-sectional, opposite leg than us, and said he was worried. When he was younger, drunker, and with his boys, he might have seen a couple like us and messed with them. Tossed them around. He would have beat them.

I couldn’t stop seeing broken beer bottles, glass across pavement. A single lamp lit the living room. I wished that there were an endless number, that the entire time he talked I could have been snapping them on. He said that if his own son wasn’t, he’d still be out there, primed.

When I told Mom I was dating someone, she said oh in her smallest voice. She said it in the same voice she used when she congratulated me for getting a scholarship to an out-of-state school.

I don’t know how I’m going to introduce him. My family isn’t big on touching. My parents don’t kiss; they peck. Once, I saw an I Break for Birds bumper sticker on the back of a Nissan.

My Dad was the one who told me that it’s dangerous to try and avoid animals on the road. We were stopped at a green light. I had just swerved, braked to miss a racoon. My brother and mom slept in the backseat. Middle of the long, past-midnight hours during a drive back from Florida. I could have spun us out. If there was another car we could have been rear-ended. Dad said it was easier to hit animals. But he said never hit a deer, that their body is big enough to total the car, even kill the driver.

My brother got hit walking back to his dorm last year. He rolled right over the windshield, the roof, down the back. He stayed in state for school. My dad took him to the ER, and they said they couldn’t take his medical insurance and needed the car insurance instead. But he hadn’t gotten the driver’s information; he was hit by a car.

The school added a crosswalk and a light near where he was hit, but I don’t know how they knew because he never told them. It must have happened to other people too. What if, like the crosses after wrecks, streetlights followed wherever someone was hit? That’d be something, right? There’d be no system. Lights growing like a bouquet at the busiest intersections. In the middle of the road. One, alone, at the side of a wire fence, next to a long gravel driveway with a mailbox at its end.

I want to show Boyfriend where my dad taught me how to drive. Second roundabout leading out of my neighborhood. Only one-and-a-half cars could fit on the road. Trees and bushes hemmed in the sides. Blind turns. Dips that flooded when it rained. When I was in middle school, the bus used the road as a shortcut. On one turn, we would all dive onto one side of the aisle and try to tip the bus over. It never worked.

Okay, I lied. When Boyfriend’s dad told us to be more careful, he was talking about the collar of hickeys around my neck. He said it was so obvious, everyone would know what Boyfriend’s, his son’s, mouth did and how I liked it. A student athlete I was tutoring noticed them. He congratulated me, slapped me on the shoulder, and asked me what she looked like. He saw me and still didn’t know anything; I could be anything and safe, so I didn’t correct him.

When Boyfriend and I used to walk to class, we’d cross through the parking at the stadium, and I’d see the athlete walking with his friends. He had a back you could set plates across. Backwards baseball cap. I always saw him first and from behind. If he turned around, he’d see us. He’d know Boyfriend wasn’t a girl. And then he’d remember the hickies and how he was jealous. And that when he was jealous, he was jealous because of my boyfriend. Wouldn’t that sit in his stomach? I would’ve let go of Boyfriend’s hand; I know. But the athlete; he’d know. Boyfriend’s starfish mouth, stubble. It’d be a stone he’d carry.

Sometimes when Boyfriend looks at me, I know he loves me because we lock eyes and every wall becomes a mirror. I thought it was a secret, but one of my friends said to Stop that shit when she saw him looking at me. We were picking out Halloween costumes at some pop-up, seasonal store. He kept trying on every hat, and I told him he was going to get lice. She said to stop that shit, and she was joking. I should have known it was how we looked.

I’m not sure what type of car will hit me. When I picture it, I picture someone accelerating from a resting position. Different than how an animal is hit.

My cell phone vibrates, comes alive. I don’t look at who it is but know. Dead eyes are always described as glassy. And it’s true. My eyes will be open, like a window.




Connor Oswald is from the Kansas side of Kansas City. His work has been previously published in Drunk in a Midnight Choir and Rumble Fish Quarterly. Once, he was called a rebel poet and has been trying to live up to that expectation ever since.

Next (Mason A. Hamberlin) >

< Previous (Cathy Ulrich)