PORTLAND by Cinthia Ritchie I fucked the UPS man that summer I spent in Portland and the pavement glimmered in the heat and the cement looked so white it blinded me until I suddenly knew how it felt to walk in clouds. I was living in the psych ward but out on day passes, and all the aides said how well I was doing, isn’t she doing well, I was a model patient, except in the afternoons when I knelt in the bathrooms of post offices and blew off the UPS man, his skin damp and sweaty because the air conditioner in his truck didn’t work worth a damn. Heat in my veins, my mouth, my blood, he made me taste and smell flowers: blood reds and pinks, peach the secret shade of the skin between my legs. I would weep when I came, my wrists stretched tight over my head, palms opening and closing around all those colors. He never knew my name, only the way my hair flowed around my face and the songs that leaked from my mouth when I came. I told him I was a plant, a petal, that I opened when he touched me, but we both knew it was a lie, that I was nothing more than flesh, bones, a tongue that waited flat and heavy between my lips. When I got out, I spent the first night in his bed, awake all night listening to his chest rise as if the secrets of my life might be hidden inside his throat. When the room began to lighten, I slipped outside, stuck roses inside my clothes, those cool, damp petals kissing my skin as I walked away from him, down toward the river, where I could only dream of jumping now that I knew flowers grew from the ground and not from my greedy, yearning mouth.
Tag: Issue Nine Cinthia Rtiche
STUTTERING, Cinthia Ritchie
STUTTERING by Cinthia Ritchie You know about silence, not the silence of shaded fields but of nights where the wind forgets to move and the flat, salted weight of your own stupid tongue. You don't speak unless you have to, your throat a stingy lump that refuses to give up words. The heat of your broken speech is so great you often escape to the bathroom, press your face against cool tiles, imagining rain or snow or the cold, clear blast of a freezer door opening. At a dinner party, you rub butter over your lips, press your elbows against the polished table, smile at the man with the fraying cuffs and long, dark fingers until his body falls in step with yours and you lead him home, your hands sliding beneath his shirt, each touch a vowel, a syllable, a long, teasing hyphen. There's so much you want to say you can't keep your tongue away from his skin: even your saliva drips words across his chest. This man talks a lot, whispering and asking, thanking and demanding, the moist hum of letters slipping so effortlessly from his lips that you can't help biting down, hard, on his neck, your throat washed with the warm, slippery taste of his fluent blood. When he finally leaves you dance the cat across the room until your teeth ache. You haven't spoken a word all night and your voice presses your throat like newly-splintered wood. You open your mouth: yell, scream, shout, your words breaking and snapping with the useless urgency of damp ash.
Cinthia Ritchie writes and runs mountains in Anchorage, Alaska. Find her work at Sport Literate, Best American Sports Writing 2013, Evening Street Review, Water-Stone Review, Under the Sun, Cactus Heart Press, Daminfo Press, The Boiler Journal, 101 Words and other literary magazines and small presses. Her first novel, Dolls Behaving Badly, was released from Hachette Book Group.