hobart logo
Filial, your father said photo

I met your father in the parking lot by the shipping dock. An old man was trading me a truck for three pairs of underwear. A sea-green Toyota Tacoma. While your father, a stranger, leaned on the cement rampart, the old man left me a long, tongue- engorged kiss.

Alone, I remarked our resemblance. Filial, your father said. Like Janus. He wore an old raincoat. His hair was wet like mine. His fingers were all chewed up. He didn’t seem to have a home. We were both too young. Lost cousins. Abandoned retrievers. Geminis. I told your father I didn’t know how to drive, which was true.

Right away we shared amphetamines. He fed them to me to keep me awake. It was already night. Little chips when my good eye closed. A half or whole under my tongue. He was a good teacher. We had a long way to go. In the beginning, I almost decapitated us. This brought us closer. I leaned down to change gears and we rolled into oncoming traffic (the Tacoma was a stick). He turned the wheel, we veered onto the shoulder—missing the semi by the wing of a fruit fly.

Taillights made blurry lines toward the distance. We followed in that direction, closed in on both sides. We wanted and didn’t want to die. We couldn’t decide. All night, we dissected lies—my age, for example—to ease the path of eyes, of hands, legs, etc. We drove feverishly. We felt each other like an irritant, a pull. It became an illness; our legs touching. We couldn’t concentrate. It was such a fog. It didn’t feel real. We had to pull over.

(Imagine a calf. Not like a baby cow. Like part of a leg. Imagine an ingrown hair that a fingernail scratches. Imagine one calf belongs to a woman. Imagine one calf belongs to a man. Imagine four calves in a pool of black water, kicking. Imagine the water is thick rope. Imagine a calf that drapes itself over its twin, highlighted by the sheen of saliva. Imagine a calf bleeding, cut on something sharp. Imagine you can't see your lover’s calf, but you can feel it. Imagine the ravine that separates one calf from the other.)

Our white t-shirts turned mossy. We collapsed on the floor of the truck bed. We burned our lips. We tasted pennies. We became swollen. A shivering followed, like molting. Then your father lit a cigar and we saw the baby cow, in the field, across a fence. Watching us with eyes of soft liquid. Behind her, darkness. The smell of grass and dung. I put one hand out, and your father licked it. We entered a new phase: dissolution.

It was not in the Tacoma that I felt the first crash of love. It was in the forest. Your father walked ahead, so I could see him from a distance. The back of his head was gold. His arms flailed. The cocoon broke open. Then he turned his face, and it closed.

We drove on. Your father put a plastic bag on the seat between us, for throwing up. I was nauseated. The night had a Wolf Moon. High like a discus, in all the windows, and my fever opened. Somewhere, I was violently ill. I began to bleed. We stopped in a grassy knoll. I fell to the ground, oozing, and gave birth to what I came to know as a child, as you.

You were blood red and smaller than a chip of speed. You fit into a matchbox. We had never seen a child so small. We did not know they existed. But your father was kind, and I was not embarrassed.

We placed you on top of our underwear and lost you for hours. Your cries were loud. Like a cricket in a wall. Piercing, repetitive. A spray would surely kill you. We wondered about insecticide. A moth landing on the windshield. We needed stillness to decide.

We parked in a mall. I filled your father’s raincoat with objects so priceless and small the alarms never rang.

Somewhere between Minnesota and Florida, the old man wired five-hundred dollars. I told him I needed more lingerie. It felt like betrayal. His money allowed us to stay the night in a motel, where your father painted a matchbox with green nail polish. The other matchboxes were red.

We put you on the free bible and watched. Do insects sleep? You quaked. I fed you drops of milk from a Q-tip. You digested. We planned. At dawn, your father said, My wife will pay, to the hollow man at the front desk. This is how your life began.