Unravel by h. l. nelson

Oct 25 2013

We tangle out of the club, drunk and laughing about the chick in the too-short minidress who fell down on the dance floor and flopped like a strange pink fish. The man she was with took a picture of her, then texted or tweeted and/or facebooked it. She could have been having a seizure, but I don’t think about that until later. I’m sure you don’t think about that at all.

I step off a curb I don’t see, and you grab my wrist too hard, tell me to watch where I’m going. Your voice is Jack and Coke rough. Flash back to an ex who broke my same wrist, anger that began with his mother and ended with a fractured me. I yank it to my chest, muscle memory still stinging. You slit your eyes and flick your cigarette in front of an oncoming car. I see how easily you could be that oncoming car.

Across the street, a homeless man is selling tiny dolls made of string. His sign says Dolls 4 Cheap, and passersby tiptoe around it, as if on a tightrope. Untethered, we wind past rushing cars, over to the man. I take a doll in my palm and hand him two dollars. The doll has one eye, no mouth. I ask why. The man tells me she was his first try. She’s made from just one string. He hands me back one dollar, and I’m sad he’d sell her so cheap. You shoot me the “Let’s go now” face. It looks like anger, uncoiling from your center.

I regard the doll again. Not a thought in her small head, only nylon and cotton. No way to articulate thoughts, if she had them. Limbs and body and heart, the same fibrous stuff. Tucked into her left foot, I see the string’s end. Her fibril fragility. I finger it, glance at weak-chinned you, wait for the break. I know what will happen if I pull.

h. l. nelson is Founding Editor/Executive Director of Cease, Cows mag and a former sidewalk mannequin. (Yes, that happened.) Pub credits: PANK, Hobart, Connotation Press, Red Fez, Bartleby Snopes, blah blah blah. She is working on an anthology, which includes stories by Aimee Bender, Roxane Gay, xTx, and other fierce women writers. h. l.’s MFA is currently kicking her ass. Tell her what you’re wearing: heather@hlnelson.com.

7 responses so far

  1. Last line is a gut-punch, in all the right ways.

  2. Great piece, Heather. I can feel things unravel as I read.

  3. […] Unravel […]

  4. Excellent. Loved this.

  5. Thank you all so much!

  6. I like the way the doll and the speaker pull the thread that frayed at the very start with that pink fish flopper–all are choruses of a similarly moving fragility.

  7. This piece packs a walloping punch. There is so much innuendo and metaphor. I loved this!

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