I saw her first through the fog that engulfed the courthouse in one swift embrace. I wondered if she would recognize me, even though I knew she wouldn’t. My car’s headlights were my shield, just as her teardrop eyes were safely locked, protecting her from the truth. I guess I wouldn’t want to know me either, all things considered.

This is an excerpt from the Statement’s annual Literary Issue. Click below to read more.

Originally published Feb. 25, 2015

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The Statement is The Michigan Daily’s weekly news magazine, distributed every Wednesday during the academic year.

Her hands were small and strong. She was hunched over, as though she was carrying an enormous load upon her back. I suppose, in a way, she was. My eye focused on the wrinkle carved over her left eyebrow. I couldn’t help but think that I had put that age-mark there by accident, like a sculptor whose hand slips and leaves a line that was never meant to exist. Her brow trembled. Don’t cry now, I encouraged silently from the warmth of my sedan. I can’t handle crying. Not now. She pushed an empty stroller, the ghost of her child playing peekaboo under its hood. The stroller was red, pierced with yellow stars and tagged with rainbows here and there. The woman didn’t seem to know the where of her destination. She didn’t seem to have a choice in the matter. She was pulled by necessity, by the tug of guilt that she was the one still alive. If she stopped, she’d think and remember the hole I had ripped in her family tree. Her footprints dug deeper in the tread of yesterday’s walk-to-forget. Smudges of dirt flicked up on to the backs of her legs.

I circled around the block, so she wouldn’t think I was following her. “There’s a parking spot,” you pointed out. But I ignored you and drove past the meter. I needed to see her one last time before it was my time to serve. In a moment of guilt-ridden masochism, I needed to see the mother’s tar-streaked tears, staining her lily-blossom cheeks. The little girl’s rattling laughter pounded in my head, stronger than it had the night that I silenced her.

We had parked outside of a quaint little house on a dark and quiet street. “Lovelock Court. That sounds like a nice one,” you said. While you and I had been dancing swirly tangoes on each other’s skin, car leather sticking to our necks, she was stocking up on taffeta make-believe and glass-slippered innocence. Coming out of our dizzy haze, I blindly flexed the pedal, and made contact with the runaway princess, whose frog prince waited in front of the car. She was a fly on my windshield, not making a dent as she collapsed on the road.

And yet, I’ve never felt more weighed down.

When had the world around me become so polarized? I had grown accustomed to the in-betweens of this half-caff, capri length world. Suddenly, decisions needed to be made. Either we do or we don’t. We are or we aren’t. We live or we die. Yet, what was a life in prison but the slowest death known to man. The mother understood this much, I knew. She died a bit every day without her babe, while her treadmarked memory lived on in her head.

Would you visit me? I wondered. We had always said, that when the time was right, our child was going to be beautiful. Nights staring up at the ceiling imagining the chestnut hair, the brown eyes with my long slender nose and a bit of your freckles across the cheeks. She would have been a flautist. He would have been a doctor (a radiologist because he would get squeamish at the sight of blood). But our dreams were cracked like the pavement the mother walks on, day after day. It’s hard to fuck between metal bars, I wanted to say even though I hate swearing in front of you. I knew you would only understand if I was explicit.

But, she, the mother, and I, we were more alike than she would ever know. Both shackled in an endless reverie of the path not taken. You squeezed my hand and returned me to the present. “It wasn’t your fault. You know that.” I looked once at the court’s four Grecian columns, looming ahead. My vision blurred and combined them into one fat cement wall, blocking my view. I turned to see my victim’s victimized mother, taking the lonely path she never saw coming. “But I blindsided her,” I said. “I didn’t give her the chance to choose a different way.” It’s not your fault, I thought, hoping that in some magical way, my thoughts could transmit through glass windows and highly polluted urban smog. She was looking for her prince. You can’t stop a love like that. I took the key out of the ignition, wiped a black fleck of mascara from the corner of my eye, and prepared my retreat into destiny’s cold, metal womb.

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