by Janae Green

Before dinner, I daydream about his later-wife. Her hair is red. In my dreams, her hair is always red and it’s always full of cracked mirror glass. The pieces cut into her shoulders. The last time I saw her there, their baby chortled: her laugh yellow with gums flapping. The baby’s eyes are dark, just like his. She’s yours, you know, his wife says.

I dig holes into my skin. My fingernails press until the only voice I hear is the scream in my flesh; my veins breathing. The holes leak like a life escaped. I peel the surface, the pale meat, and pulp the tissue into small strips.

Dinnertime reminds me of the heavy grins of children and Play-Doh cakes: as long as the meat smells brown enough, our bellies ignore the squish and bubbly-pain. We filled our smiles when we ate. I shape the cheapest beef, balmy and lumped with different colors of powdered cheese. I am a cardboard wife and the box imitates meat.

Most days, I think my lips might crawl down my chin. I walk to my job at the restaurant to save money. I burrow the Corsica’s damp carpet for change. I save the dimes and nickels—quarters if I’m lucky—to buy a dollar cheeseburger and sometimes, I have enough for a value soft drink. In the fall, I starve to buy decorations for Halloween.

While I tape the orange and purple lights this year, he asks, “Why are you wasting money,” his shoulders shivering, “I need money for cigarettes. You have to stop spending.”

With runny fingers, I spread the fake webbing across the banister and lace our fenced patio with plastic spiders. I arrange window stickers of glitter-monsters and ghouls and fill our largest bowls with bags of chocolate sweets. Later I walk around the other apartment patios for my competition. 

When I come back, I start dinner again. Blood lines the holes I pull from my skin; the white underbelly drips from the hunger in my limbs. Children knock on our door and I grin. I spread my face wide enough to tear the skin.


Janae Green is a writer living in the Pacific Northwest, where she signs books at local Portland bookstores until she gets kicked out. Follow her @thenaeword on Twitter.
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