Crossing Lines by Clare Michalak

You are perched on your counter top, sitting cross-legged across from your roommate who is perched by the sink. These are your respective arena seats for the “girl talk” that happens at 1:52 AM on a Wednesday morning. Today’s discussion is about how no’s and yes’s are a game of chess. You talk about how sometimes the men you are with just can’t take a hint. Move his hand nine times, it comes back for a tenth. Rook to E1. Roll over to stop his hands, Knight to H3. Say no five times before his mouth finally leaves yours. Pawn to C6. “We just need to say no more often,” you both agree. Check. Vocalizing it shouldn’t be that big of an issue. But as you both let that phrase sink in, you both know that no is never taken as a complete sentence. Checkmate.”

You are walking with your two best friends up the street to the apartment. Tammy is walking slowly in back and looking over her shoulder. “Watermelon.” You three share a look before clustering together, still talking as if nothing is wrong. “Tammy what do you see?” You ask. “He has been following us for 5 blocks,” she says. Now the three of you walk forward holding on to your bags and move faster up the street. You see Tammy start to sprint and you notice the man now, eyeing your group to the left and picking up the pace. You begin to run. You all run up the remaining stairs two at a time before slamming the green door behind you and dead bolting it. You all get ready for bed together, escorting each other to the bathroom so no one has to be alone. You can’t stop shaking.

You are at the doctor’s office. You fill out paperwork and wait for thirty-five minutes in a cold metal chair. You are brought into a white room and ordered to wait on the red cushion chair for another fourteen minutes. The doctor comes in asking what seems to be the problem. You say that a few days ago you couldn’t breathe. You don’t know what was wrong. But your lungs filled with something and your skin crawled with heat. He looks you up and down. There doesn’t seem to be anything the matter now, he says. There’s nothing we can do, he says. Before closing the door behind him.

You are dancing with your friend in a 10$ club that puts x’s on your hands if you are under twenty-one. Songs with gyrating beats fill the air and you feel hands grab your hips pulling you closer into Budweiser breath. This is okay you guess. You sway to the music and look back to your friend. She is locked in an embrace too but you give each other the look of approval. As the chorus hits his hands find themselves tracing down your thighs and under your dress. You grab his hands and put them back on to your hips but just as you let go, they plunge back. One arm wraps around your chest. You can’t breathe. You break his grip with your nails and push against him as hard as you can. He screams “Whore” in your face before trudging off back to the bar. You are left in the middle of the dance floor. Your friend gives you a look of apology from between arms wrapped around her waist. Someone from behind you grabs your hips.

He slept over and let you hog the blankets. You get up to shower. You turn on the bathroom light and pull your wrinkled shirt above your head. You gasp. Bruises cover your neck and your collarbone. There are dark spots on your breasts and your ribs. They are deep purple against your skin. They make you uneasy. They feel like a branding mark. Like you’ve been branded with a hot poker. You tilt your head and make a note to cover everything with make up. Bruises are strange. The only thing that separates love bruises and anger bruises is intention. You look again in the mirror. You don’t like how thin that line appears to be.

————
Claire Michalak is a recent graduate from Quinnipiac University where she completed her BA in English (Creative Writing) and Interactive Digital Design. She is currently a frelance designer.

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