Quit talking like that. This isn’t Joliet Illinois, said a man, whom I spoke to in such a way that I could have only been in love with, and needed to knock the vulnerability out, the way you would a chicken, 

by cradling it beneath your armpit to lull it to sleep before hacking it’s head off on a tree-stump in the trailer park of Joliet, because suddenly, now, I’m back there, without a choice:

And the neighbor is picking brazen, sun-flecked feathers out of the carcass. And Jamie, who cut hair at Classic Looks, Jamie who got married too young and too quick, too in love, in a way 

so bright and fierce, it can only dissipate like the spattering raindrops of fireworks we were setting off. And Erica, with her nose flat at the bridge like a boxer’s, whose trailer it was, her first 

place she’d gotten with her boyfriend, Corndog, is breathing from her blown-glass pipe, her hair permanently mussed, her eyes black with first love. And there’s Seth Summers, next to me in the grass 

passed out, his eyelashes black as calligraphy, woozy from margaritas dyed a space alien green as the lawn, Seth, whose flannel is rumpled and tossed next to him, which he always wore, 

which his stepfather would rip off of him like an excited child’s birthday gift, Seth had dropped acid like a Catholic wafer. Spent the following year in a free mental health clinic with a Vietnam vet who couldn’t seem

to put his shell-shocked like back together, and a nun who would pace the stark halls in her orthopedic shoes, repeating enough hail Marys to absolve the world, the same one, I am not sorry to say, 

that I loved, no matter how cruel, like Seth, who beat Chris Smith like a honeydew melon being tested for ripeness, because, he said, he talked down to me, and nobody, he said, talked down to me.

And this isn’t Joliet, Illinois. Anymore than a conversation needs to end with a bold harsh period of my last word like a bullet launched aimlessly in a golden field, not caring where it lands. Just that I can walk 

away knowing I’ve hurt something.That I’ve done enough damage to someone to distract me from my own. And I forgot, going back to that scene, that someone

loved me the only way he knew how. Enough to damage another person in the same way when you love someone, you rip open your shirt to show them your heart. If we were transparent would we look 

more carefully at each other, as though the heart was a mood ring, or would we take it for granted and pawn it off on others even more, the way we do the world,

until someone makes us suck 
 our breath in so sharply, we feel
we can never get it back?

Published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, April 2007 Issue. 

Copyright © 2009 by Maria Nazos. All Rights Reserved.