To the Man Who Filled My Body With ______
I don’t know how you ever fit here.
Tonight, six months after our final hoorah, I woke up in a sweat, turned off the electric heater in my room, knowing it’s too cold—finally, in Oklahoma—to be so hot.
I don’t know what comes after a supermoon, but I know I saw you, two days ago, on the night of one. The first night in months I could imagine saying “hello,” not “go to hell.” I said the former, but you’d have to tell me what my eyes, what my body, said. A forlorn version of the latter?
Tonight, in some wackass afterglow, I’m not seeing you, but it’s bright enough at 4:00 a.m. for me to see your old bike, still stationed outside my window. I’ve removed the quilt that hung there, which once blocked out the light. Now it all comes through, prodding me, poking me, filling my dark gaps and corners.
I’m two different people, and my body knows it. My body holds onto two memories of you: you who filled me with love and you who filled me with loathing. Two fires.
After years of fighting for and with each other, we learned how to touch each other sensitively, lovingly. Just right. All fiery.
After years of fighting, six months ago I screamed the words to end it all. Still I slept in your bed, as though I couldn’t’ve walked home, not even a mile away, in my drunken, unslept stupor. After years of fighting, you screamed the conclusion into my body. You rendered my words action, bodily force, domination. It wasn’t painful, no, not in a corporeal way. But there was a new fire ablaze. Coming out of my daze, I saw it in your eyes. You were giving it to me; your latent anger found a powerful, terrifying, carnal way to materialize. When you saw my shock, my fear, you stopped. You stopped when I asked you to, but you had to know my mind nor my body wanted it in the first place. You knew my body was the one thing I could claim as my own. You knew that to take that from me would be to take everything. This is what they say.
That was the end. There was no other choice. That night I went to your house thinking I’d make that choice. But no. You had the last word.
Months later, you apologized. You knew what you’d done—you guessed it’d broken me. I believed you until you all but reneged, making light of that dismal night. Is it that I didn’t fall back into you when you apologized, when you finally used the word “love”? Did it take the act of thrusting hatred into my body for you to find your love for me?
Still sometimes it breaks me; still sometimes there’s a raging fire within.
But I’m two different people, and my body knows it. Two different fires rampage in me. Some nights I come to, imagining those hot, sweaty, perfect nights, nights when we’d use our bodies to love each other—employing our bodies, it seems, was the only way we knew how. Here I think of Joni Mitchell’s holy wine. These nights I wake up embarrassed, aroused, electrified, nostalgic. My body remembers our expertise together, the teamwork we built over the years. Remembers how we’d share any sacred remnants we had left of ourselves with each other. My body remembers making that kind of heat with yours. Sometimes I blame these somatic memories on the dry air here lately; recently, when I get into bed each night, I make lightning against my sheets. Static electricity. This is my excuse.
But sometimes—often—I wake up and my body remembers the other fire you built without me. No, I can’t say that. We built it together. But you lit it inside me without my clearance—this time it wasn’t holy wine burning. This time it was dirty, toxic, something for my body to fend off. Like Heaven Hill or PBR—maybe rubbing alcohol burning inside me. Something my body wants to forget but can’t. There’s always the afterburn. These nights I wake up in a fever, too, all defense, all tense, all on edge. All ire and heartbreak.
I woke up tonight sweating, caught somewhere between the two fires, legs spread and arms akimbo, leaving just enough room for the cat to sleep at my heels. I have no idea how you ever fit in this bed with me.
About the Author: Cassidy McCants is a writer and editor from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She received her B.A. in creative writing from University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and her M.F.A. in fiction writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has worked as associate editor of Nimrod International Journal since 2013 and as assistant editor of The Tulsa Voice since 2017. Her work has appeared in The Lascaux Review, The Rabbit Is In, The Junction, and other publications, and her stories have received honorable mentions from Glimmer Train Press.