Units, C.C. Russell
Originally published in Wolves Magazine.
Blood is important, they say. When they say this, they mean family. As if what is infused into your cells is something more than one-time ejaculate. More than a bitter sort of acceptance of where you come from. More than milk snatched from a breast stretched painfully towards your ever hungry mouth.
I remember my mother’s lip, swollen. Split open. My hand coming back, splinters of the closet door stuck into the back of my head.
The blood of the words. Ashamed means I do not love you. Proud means I didn’t before. This is what I know of family.
“One year is a small country,” Elizabeth said in between slurps of hot chocolate, her hands scalding themselves against the Styrofoam, her words pushing through steam.
“Then what’s twenty seven?”
Without missing a beat, “Half a world, Eric. Half a world.”
We graph the terrain of our lives. How many different landscapes have we been by twenty? Thirty? Forty? My father killed before he ever created life. It is karma that I was born with an extra valley or two.
The sound of Elizabeth laughing. Like a kitten left outside for the first time.
The first time that my father told me he hated me, I was in eighth grade. My mother had gotten an earlier start.
Looking at Elizabeth through the steam, looking at her soft hands around the cup. I want to watch her landscapes change. This is new for me, this wanting to stick around.
At my father’s funeral, my mother wanted me to sit next to her, to be the one to console her. I gave her what I could and left before the procession headed to the cemetery.
I’ve been back to his grave exactly once. I didn’t spit. I don’t mind saying that I am proud of that, at least.
Elizabeth was waiting for me in the car. “Did you tell him you’re going to be a father?”
“No. He doesn’t deserve to even know.”
“Did you spit on him?”
“You should have. You really should have.”
The sound of Elizabeth laughing, like heat cracking ice cubes open. I take her hand in mine. We drive.
C.C. Russell has published poetry, fiction, and non-fiction here and there across the web and in print. You can find his words in such places as Split Lip Magazine, The Colorado Review, and the anthology Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone. He currently resides in Wyoming where he sometimes stares at the mountains when he should be writing. He can be found on Twitter: @c_c_russell. His website is ccrussel.net.