by Carolyn Nash
Ginny says “sweet” is a word like a butter knife as she leans over and vomits again. She spits once and wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, pauses with her face over the bucket. Then she leans back into the couch and explains: a butter knife doesn’t do a single thing that another knife can’t do just as well. Ginny’s face is white and damp, like a potato cut open.
The room smells like tomato paste and sour shit. Ginny pants a little as she stares up at the ceiling. Her profile is proud and elegant, the smooth lift of her nose, the doubled pink of her lips, the plunge where her sharp chin becomes her delicate throat. Looking at her, it’s hard not to think of all the ways you can hurt a person, all the things you can do to make a body fall apart, shock the blood against air.
The thing itself has already happened, I think. At least the throes of it are over, the part where Ginny’s wide open mouth let out such peels of maniacal panic I thought our neighbors would call the police. Sometimes she turned her face into the pillow and stifled the screams, but I was afraid if I forced her quiet she would suffocate. Or hit me. Through most of it, I just sat on the love seat and watched. Once she made me call the emergency number, but they said there was nothing to be done, as though she were a meteor crashing towards our earth, or an astronaut untethered, drifting away from us, beyond reclaim.
After Ginny falls asleep, I take the bucket into the bathroom and wash it. I scrub away the ring her puke has left in the toilet bowl: a small gesture, an act of necessity. When everything is clean and the smell is gone, it will be over for me. I feel how much worse it must be for her, to share this experience with someone who won’t even remember the person she was before. For a moment, I feel how alone she is, how alone I’ve let her be. I rush back to the living room to tell her I’ll remember, I’ll remember who she was, if this moment changes her forever, but when I see her sleeping, beautiful, stinking girl, my blood goes quiet, and the feeling is gone.
Carolyn Nash has a voracious appetite and intermittent insomnia. She dislikes water chestnuts and overcooked eggs. She likes Pegasus sneakers because they make her run fast. She writes here.