We did what we could to protect our own, chopping vegetables in the kitchen for a giant stir-fry. Today was a list of known subversives with certain identifying marks blacked out. Someone’s father was concerned. You and I, hearts sunk in chests, reassured our best intentions and set the table. The kitchen was white.
Outside the municipal building the marble steps looked like melting pads of mint chip ice cream. Even tourists don’t come here behind the half shell. In the dark, it’s hard to know about surveillance. I count twenty police cars in that lot plus some unmarked vehicles. What exactly constitutes evidence?
When dinner was served, no one spoke a word. We communicated in eyebrows and wrinkled lips. All phones in a bag in the car. Who knows each keystroke? Who sends my mail for me? Try writing imaginary letters to each person in your life.
But what we seek is not resolution. I’m not sure what that means, lying in bed, all my clothes on, the sheets twisted irretrievably and a fist pulling my ribcage inwards. Back and forth, eyes glowing in reflection.
Every group brings, even to its empty center, other gods; we pray. Thank you for the food we receive: at least one person at the table awkwardly participates in our grace. Human animal slurping. When I eat noodles there’s always ricochet, but that’s true no matter what I eat.
Fast forward to when I’m finally alone and I can shove my head full of other words. Rewind to anticipation, when nothing happens but pacing back and forth from couch to kitchen to bathroom, a sentence on the tip of my tongue.
If I could call you, I would. A trail of heartbreak in my wake. It will be hard for people to know your limits, since you are radically open. Shut down. I jump forward and fall back, never walking in a straight line, step by step.
But here with you, in the warmth of the belly, candles lit, fear simmering in various sauces, it ends. I mean, begins. A group song to send us off? They’re listening; we might as well perform. Each attendee turns over in their heads simple achievements. It would be impossible to know how the food tasted for everyone, but one must assume infinite differences.
Outside, a congress of turkeys meets on the lawn. The cats have been driven out by their spurs, but they’ll have their day. The winter grass is weary, yellow. The wires strung above the street are squirrel roads. There is no table, so we sit on the floor and lock the doors.
Nothing happening here but a call to the dead. Holding hands with strangers: I’ll no longer retract my skin imperceptibly; let the texture, slick or crisp, folded or plush, loose or tight, grip me here.
Scott Branson is a queer anarchist living in Asheville, NC, where they write, teach, and organize. Their most recent writing has appeared in Matter.