after a line by Hafizah Geter
January. You left your apartment in Cincinnati—all that light, its wide windows, its clean kitchen, its full-belly fridge—and met me halfway up Route 27. It was night by then, and I drove down from Oxford, leaving my place—its hollow door, empty cupboard, matted shag carpet. The road was two-lane, and we must have each pulled off to the side, and I must have gotten in your car. Like so much of the year I was twenty-seven, that part is hazy. You kept the heat on but not the radio. You must have turned the vents toward me. You didn’t ask much. By then I think you knew there was nowhere to go but down a listening street. Outside, there was no rain but there was snow on the way, and it was cold the way that kind of January is. Your beard, even then, was soft. My coat was black and loose, not because it was a size too large but because I was lost in it. I would never see you again. I would continue to hurt for someone who’d hurt me. I would meet and marry someone else, and he would be wrong in the exact way a person thinks they can turn around on a one-way road. I can’t remember now how long it took me to get back to my apartment that night on Route 27. I can’t remember the engine’s murmur or how many stop signs asked me to wait. I only remember that the lights in Oxford never shone like glitter, and that for years I didn’t understand how to find my way home.
Shuly Xóchitl Cawood grew up writing stories on her father’s blue Selectric typewriter. Her most recent book, Trouble Can Be So Beautiful at the Beginning: poems (Mercer University Press), won the Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry. Cawood’s other books include A Small Thing to Want: stories (Press 53) and the memoir, The Going and Goodbye (Platypus Press). Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Sun, and Brevity. Shuly loves to hike in the woods, doodle with her Crayola markers, and teach writing workshops. Learn more at www.shulycawood.com.
A.C. Koch is a teacher, writer and musician whose fiction has been published in Analog, Split/Lip, Puerto del Sol, Hobart and forthcoming in Fantasy & Science Fiction. His photos and cartoons have appeared in Mud Season Review, BurningWord, and Birdy. He lives in Denver and performs with Firstimers.