Owen Brown is “In a Relationship” with Jess Clark

Here is a secret:
When a boy tells you
he does not want a relationship, he means
he does not want a relationship,
with you.

Six months of going out
in the East Village, pretending
to like cheap Mexican food,
and documentaries about Hunter S. Thompson.
When I told him I liked him, sheets strewn
around us, like waves
receding from the shore
he pet my head,
and said, he was not ready for “a thing.”
“A thing.”
I thought of nouns; a person, place or thing.
Stretched out in his bed, cat nuzzled at my feet
I wanted this person, this place.
“I feel the same,” I said,
“I also do not want a thing.”

I look at her pictures
with the self-control
of an overweight toddler.
Jess wearing dinosaur pajamas,
Jess drinking whisky,
Jess holding a Jack-O-Lantern,
pretending to make-out with its fiery mouth.
Staring at these, I finally see
every thing I was not.

She is slender, small.
Tattoos consume her arms
in skeletons, demons,
crossbones, and flames.
I look at my own unmarked skin, and wonder at her toughness
her advertised strength
the ability to wear her heart on a sleeve.

Then I imagine her with him,
wonder if it’s the same.
Does he still like giving bruises
inflicting pain?
Or after he slaps her face,
does he stroke her cheek,
remove the sting?

by S. J. Bridgins

Return to Issue 42