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August 25, 2017 Fiction

A partial list of mitigating factors in play

Jacqueline Boucher

A partial list of mitigating factors in play photo

A partial list of mitigating factors in play when, 95 days before his suicide, Judge Haloran challenges a previous assumption about the year.

  1. There is a sea of blue and brown Lego bricks between the bristle of your welcome mat and the throat of the stairs &
  2. you never wanted to be the kind of person who balked when people entered your home without taking off their shoes, &
  3. any other day this would tear you apart, this question of road grease and divot in the push of your carpet or Lego brick divots pock marking her feet, &
  4. it doesn’t. 
  5. The boys are asleep upstairs. 
  6. The boys are asleep upstairs when you stumble inside, your breath festive with gin, finger pressed to parted lips around a watery smile, &
  7. she is laughing. She is laughing the way an air mattress deflates, one shush at a time, &
  8. she braces against your forearm when she takes off her shoes to hopscotch from bare patch to bare patch, &
  9. it makes you think of the way you tricked yourself into believing the floor was lava, that maybe tonight it’s lava again, so
  10. you hop as she hopped toward the shush of her laughter, to the way she bends like pressboard against your dining room table to shush and to laugh &
  11. to palm your chest as though you’ve crossed some great distance to reach her &
  12. you still stepped on a Hotwheel, &
  13. Molly the Monk from adventuring group spent 72 hours in a hospital in May.
  14. She cranes her neck to kiss you and tells you the places she’d prefer not to be touched & 
  15. you don’t want her to feel weird, so you tell her the places you’d prefer not to be touched & 
  16. not one in the list is the place in her neck where a mole marks the double-tap of her heartbeat, or the ladders you gouged in your wrists at 13, at 32, but 
  17. the void between her third and fourth ribs and the dimple above her knee, and a dozen other places that make her laugh—not a hush, but a bark, and your boys seem so nice, she doesn’t want to wake them. So instead,
  18. she folds that laugh, those teeth, into the shell of your ear, marks a satellite’s steady path from your throat to your hip, to the scars on your thumbs from all the harm you haven’t done yourself in months, &
  19. when you mush your mouth into the shape of preemptive excuses for why you don’t always get hard, she doesn’t look embarrassed when she responds that it’s okay, that she probably won’t finish, but she’s still having fun, &
  20. your body wakes up when she holds you in her hand, not quickly, but with conviction, as though shook from old snow, and she doesn’t let you panic over not having anything in the house, not since Angie, not for years, but pulls the wrapper from her neckline and grins that she’d planned to get lucky.
  21. The dining room table is from IKEA, which was probably a mistake, because
  22. it groans like the hull of a boat when she wraps her legs around your waist, &
  23. that doesn’t worry you, but the weight of it does, so light you brace the other side of it when you move against her, as if
  24. without your help, it would simply float away. 
  25. This won’t happen again. 
  26. When it’s over, she smiles and says thank you, &
  27. you smile and say thank you, and she kisses you hard, a bon voyage before she skips across the sea of Lego like a flat, smooth stone, &
  28. next Thursday, at group, you will smile at one another in solidarity across the linoleum of the basement of the church where you hold all your secrets, &
  29. she’ll know &
  30. you’ll know 
  31. you are not alone.

image: Tara Wray