Professor

Hands zippered down he folds her into pliant. No more he’s known her than she’s known his coax-trick and his fist held bottle forced, backup track of fingers on throat, passed-out prodded, a slaplove tribute — followed by silence. Rape in marriage, still rape and daily-reminded. His night snores draw respite and she counts the lines in the tin ceiling, conjures up and befriends a centuries-old bride rocking a toddler to the creaks in the wide pine floorboards, begging him to silence to keep the husband to his sleep. In the day, public decency: a still-life snapshot of man and wife and no one aware. A bruise surfaces to show blood let out finding a way back in, but forced-fuck leaves no sign and her blood drains without incentive to reflow. As she leaves for home only the ground feels steps that hit heavier. Believing a promise does not equate to too weak to leave, but patterned-trapped in repetitious maybes; perhaps a body thinner, perhaps a voice smaller or a transformation. And if not, where would the earth tilt differently when even ghosts are afraid of shadows? Once-called crazy does a rewiring of confidence, attaching doubt to emotion. He says she exaggerates when she cries, and reaches for a bottle. Foul lessons transcend eras, teach hosts of women variations of stronger, how to mind-clutch and grasp at alive and preservation while limp-bodied waiting for parts to reassemble, rebuild. Sex a whirling devil that plays at human when summer goes well but turns biting sharp temperature drop with a whim. She collects herself and hides it in a box below the bed. When key hits latch she paints obedient portraits over her face and sets the water to boil; knives, forks, spoons to table.

 

Kathryn Roberts

About Kathryn Roberts

Kathryn Roberts' debut novel, Companion Plants, was recently published by Fomite Press. Her fiction, essays, poetry, and artwork have appeared widely in print and online, including in DigBoston, Metazen, and Pithead Chapel. She lives in Vermont.
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