I ache on the porch most days. Ache and dread. Watch and wait. The storm has passed and the dirt is still wet. The sky is duller, the nights longer, the certainty less certain. I wait for the consequences. The voice. That voice. His voice.
When I sleep, I dream hard of Jeremiah.
The colors in the barn yard are hard and blistered, like a photograph smutted with candle wax. In the dreams, I aim the shotgun at his back. But then he turns to face me, and I see his cruelty full-fleshed. His mouth twitches, as if chewing on something unpleasant. His face is scorched with whiskers, oiled with sweat. He is dressed like an old-time preacher, everything sharply creased, impeccably black. He walks towards me, so patiently, so indifferent to the gun pointing at his guts. He mouths words I can’t understand, gibberish words, and they are like curses bleeding out of stones. This is a leaner Jeremiah, a younger version, not the man I married, with his dirty grey socks and foaming stink and stained affections. This version is a man I never knew, one well-studied in the intricacies of harm. He approaches me slowly, bare-foot, and the dust around him collapses with each step. Thirty yards away, and less, one step at a time.
I wake up with blood caught in my throat, unable to scream or cry out.
I want to burrow out of this flesh, shroud myself in Nothing, hide in a place where he cannot find me. But I’m a stain inside my own skin, irrevocably contained.