by Izabella Grace
Meet me where the night sky bleeds and music drowns out thought. I’ll wear a new face, cheekbones dusted with pretty freckles and lips painted into a scarlet smile. I won’t mention the shadows beneath your navy eyes, or the jagged pieces of your splintered heart, which poke out of the back pocket of your faded jeans. Instead, I’ll spiral into your Dublin accent and lopsided grin. I’ll let you buy me hot chicken wings and cold beer. I’ll get drunk on the moment and the barbecue-scented breeze. I’ll share who I’d like to be. I’ll tell you about my best parts: overworked mam and four squabbling brothers. I’ll skip the worst: paedo stepdad. I’ll ask what college you went to. What food you like. If you have a cat or dog. I’ll describe the time I swam in Lough Derg and melted into rippling silence.
I won’t ask how you feel about the weight of darkness, or whether you’d prefer to quit instead of just coasting. I’ll let your coolness mould me. I’ll let the sultry air and raucous laughter knit us together. Then I’ll climb into the passenger seat of your shiny black convertible, and, as we fly beneath glittering stars, I’ll fling open my mind. I’ll shatter into smooth road, blurred lights and crooked trees. I’ll surrender oxygen to the wind, and I’ll swear to hold on. To now. To this. To us. Forever. I won’t think about my real face, tucked away in a battered shoebox. I’ll forget everything but the heat of your stare and the smoky taste of your kiss. I’ll squeeze my screwed-up truth into a prettier illusion. I’ll sprinkle perfume over the reek. I’ll deny daytime threats and secret night-time visits. I’ll shrug when you trace the ragged scars on my wrists. Because you deserve someone better.
We’ll settle into togetherness. You’ll dump your past onto my kitchen lino and agree to split the rent. One year will slide into seven. I’ll fester like a weeping wound, and you’ll find salvation in the curve of a whisky bottle. We’ll become a dangerous habit. Your words will cut. Your gaze will freeze. Your fists will ruin my phony face and punch a hole in my brittle confidence. I’ll dream of being eaten. Night after night, I’ll wake with a jolt, haunted by rhythmic crunching. But you won’t fold me into your safe warmth. You’ll flood our bedroom with drunken snores and mutter the name of your happily married ex. So I’ll curl like a fetus, miles from yesterday, and drift on loneliness. I’ll struggle to picture my real face. How it felt. How it looked: wide eyes, too-long nose, stubborn chin. I’ll ache to dig it out and slide it on. But what if you hate it? What if you leave? What if I’ve forgotten how to be me?
I’ll unpick your rage, stitch by stitch. I’ll accept blame for every cut, bruise and cigarette burn. Because you can’t trust someone who doesn’t exist. You can’t cherish smoke. Only then you’ll crack my eyetooth and bust my nose. So, while you drink yourself into oblivion, I’ll sneak upstairs and kick aside the bedroom rug. I’ll prise up the wonky floorboard, fingers trembling, and lift out the dusty shoebox. I’ll reach for my old face, now crumpled and loose. I’ll press forehead to forehead and chin to chin, but the rubbery flesh will hang like a bloodhound’s. So I’ll tug it. Tie it. Try to glue it. Until you find me, sobbing in the dark, cheek ripped and mouth sneering.