XLVI | Some Jerk

The painting
of Tammie by memory

is just the canvas
in hot pink.

(Meaning it’s a failure.)

She didn’t even

look human

no matter how many times
I painted over.

Tammie wanted to see

what else
I’ve painted

when the day’s over

so I lied
and said
I was painting feelings.

She examined
the bright pink canvas,

her eyes
an inch from

where the deformed


She smiled apologetically,
no comment

about my lie.


I like your paintings.


because of that sentence,


because Tammie won’t let me
watch her practice,

I drag the easel

to the main hall everyday

and search for things to paint.

Eyes watch
from their armchairs

as I set up

my workspace again—
          by the wrought-iron window today.

New canvas,
borrowed stool.

I line the bottles of paint
between the easel’s feet.

Dipping my brush into black paint,

coughs behind me.

The small boy with the plastic ear.

It’s obviously
a fake cough.

What do you want?

I resist the urge to erase his face
with my black brush.

He looks
my setup

up and down,
the way perverts

check out girls.


You’re blocking the way.


My brush
sinks back

into the pool of black.

There’s still space for you to walk.
I point

at the empty space
in every other direction.

I am beside the window,
disturbing no one.

He crosses his arms—
thinking up

more reasons.


You’re making a mess.


What the-?

I stare
at the paint splotches

that have dried
into the beige carpet

without me knowing.

‘What’s your problem?’

I have more to say,
blood roaring

in my ears,

insults on the tip of my tongue.

none of it translates

into words.

He smirks
at my


and introduces himself.


I might look small
but when I hurt you,

you’ll be the small one.


He stalks away
like he won

the lottery.

Instead of painting the wrought iron window frame,
I paint

a black spiral—

and the word

on the carpet.




Evening medicine time,
we exchange rude gestures without speaking.

Take your medicine,
the masked nurse prompts.

I glare at her, seeing

Asher’s arrogant smirk

behind her mask
and slicked back ponytail,


like a taunt.

Tammie smiles
at me

when I return
with the pills swimming in my stomach.

He’s still glaring
at me

so I fix my eyes on Tammie until
Moonlight Sonata lets us go.

I’m forced
face to face

with him at the entrance to the bathroom,

in a childish contest

of who will blink first.

He smirks,
arrogant and mocking.


Your friend
doesn’t even exist.


I lost

I blinked first

and looked away.

I will never

I only know I’ve knocked him to the ground
and toppled a shelf of clothes over him.

I also know it’s my hands

round his throat.

I know tears are falling down my face
and I’m sobbing while he screams.


telling me

to stop.

I hear her
over him,

I smell her
over him.

Our eyes meet.


Then I’m on the ground,

he kicks me
between the legs,

crushing my hand—
the one I use for painting,
the one with four fingers—

beneath his foot.

His hands
wrap around my throat.

There’s still screaming

but I’m not sure
if it’s


I can’t breathe anymore.




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