I call, Leave those shoes outside, and there’s the obedient drop of one oxblood Doc Marten boot, then the other. The fog is rolling in and I don’t know what sticky darkness is clinging to those boots, and I don’t need to know. I just need it to stay outside.
Steady, my hands. I thrust the needles back into the skein, reel the chunky fuchsia yarn loosely around them and rise to greet him. His boots outside, his step towards me is soft. I don’t ask where he’s been. Each month our phone bills get paid and there’s a few dollars left over for dump fees and groceries. That’s all I need to know, that and the drop of the one boot, then the other.
Did you see anyone?
No. He holds me for a moment, kisses my forehead. Do you want a drink?
I’m okay. Do you?
No, I’m okay.
I work at the warehouse. It doesn’t matter which one, they’re everywhere. They don’t mind if you quit and turn up in a new town a few weeks later—if you were hitting your numbers, they’ll take you back. I work at the warehouse because the pavement that leads up to it is fresh and even, the lights are bright at all hours, the cameras are always on, everyone’s hands stay busy and visible, steady as mine.
I called you when I was on my way home, he says as he unbuttons his shirt.
Sorry. They texted me, and it took me a while to reply, and once I’d hit send I put my phone on mute, and—
You don’t have to explain. It’s okay. What did they want?
What did you tell them?
That I loved them but I wasn’t coming back yet.
Okay. He pushes his shirt off his shoulders. You want to go to bed?
We built a bed out of pallets and wedged it in the back. It was the first thing we did. We spread his grandma’s afghans over it, hung soft yellow fairy lights above it and piled it with pillows from the clearance bin at Marshalls. Each night we leap or stumble into it, after pizza on payday or rice and beans the day before, but each night together.
Let me revolve all the way around the sun once before I decide if I can go back, if I can tell all the truth I have. Let me knit ten more scarves and an afghan like his grandma’s. Let me have the mornings when we sit out on the step and watch the sun rise while we drink bad coffee from Garfield mugs from the thrift store three states ago. Let me believe that I am brave and that he is good before I have to face them again. Let me say, He leaves his dirty boots outside and keeps a roof over my head and he’s never raised a hand to me, which is more than any of you can say. Let my hands be steady when I say it.
Abigail Myers writes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction on Long Island, New York. Her fiction has recently appeared in Milk Candy Review, Rejection Letters, and Roi Fainéant, and is forthcoming from Cowboy Jamboree Press’s MOTEL anthology. Her essays have recently appeared in Variant Literature (Best Spiritual Literature nomination), Phoebe, and Tiny Molecules, and are forthcoming from The Other Journal, The Dodge, and Pensive. Her poetry has appeared in Icebreakers Lit (Best of the Net nomination), Amethyst Review, Full Mood Mag, Sylvia, Hearth and Coffin, and more, and is forthcoming from Resurrection Mag. Keep up with her at abigailmyers.com and @abigailmyers on Twitter and Bluesky.