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As I peek through the gaps in the lattice fence
I see your face; you are looking back at me
from your seat in the park. There are tears
on your cheeks, which you do not brush away.
Your raise your hand to your lips
and blow me a kiss; there are many reasons
why I can’t respond, many reasons
why I should not be here. Your perfection
draws me to you, still. Now, close to my head,
a ladybird walks a ridge, senses my shadow,
senses my breath, before opening its wings
and flying to you. All I can do
is stand here and wish,
wish I was with you
on that seat in the park.
Since Lisa said she wanted to separate a year ago, Nick had seen the word divorce at the edge of his vision; he’d heard the word when other words beginning with D had been spoken — division, divvy, detain. He’d been upset, of course, but not devastated. He’d see Lisa whenever he saw Crystal, and he felt that once they were broken up properly and time had passed, they’d have a chance to get together again.
Now, from inside his prison cell, Nick feels the finality of the word, of the act. His three-year sentence changes everything. Divorce means throwing him out like rotten vegetables, unusable, unhealthy. Divorce will quadruple his solitude, his fear, his loneliness when they were just bearable before.
So he lifts weights at rec time, limits himself to half a pack of cigarettes a day, doesn’t complain or even grimace as he mops the vast kitchen. He brushes his teeth after every meal; he’s reading for the first time since high school — just the newspaper, but he can’t believe how much happens, how much is always going on that he never thought of before.
He works on his answers. If she says divorce, he’ll tell her about the prison’s family counseling program. If she asks how he’s doing, he says he misses her and Crystal. If she says she’ll stick with him, he won’t cry. He’ll kiss her hands before he kisses her mouth.
When the day comes, Nick catches himself eating quickly and slows down. He imagines the softness of her lips and tries to remember details from the newspaper article on the fundraising drive for the zoo, so he can show he’s been reading, so he can talk about taking Crystal. He counts his steps as he walks to the visiting room, pulls his shoulders back as he enters.
It’s Eddie, in a blue Cubs t-shirt and jeans. They sit across from one another, and finally Nick asks, “Where’s Lisa?”
“Sorry, Nick, she got called into work at the last minute, so she asked me to come. Lucky I had the day off.”
Nick realizes he’s shaking, his whole body trembling before he wills it to stop. The voices of other prisoners and visitors rise up around them.
“So you’re looking good,” Eddie says. “You been working out?”
Nick shakes his head. He can’t do this. He can’t make small talk. “You,” he says at last, glancing at his wedding band. “Tell me about you.”
Carrie Etter, from Hometown
he presses the code she gave him
into the panel, fumbles
in the dark hallway
hearing his own heart quicken
as he taps at the door
tracing the sound —
that move towards him
then seem to slow
there’s time for both to turn
Alex Reed, from These nights at home, with photos by Keren Banning