short fiction

Violence the Iris

Hannah Christopher

I’ve been told that drinking too much feels like this, my constant.

Water-battered wind screen and smears of peripheral fastness. Nothing ever sits still and nothing ever comes into focus. All my colors are rigged like a Michigan spring, like Lake Huron on any good day, or like breakwater.

I’ve also been told I make ludicrous bucks. Big bucks, Utro says. He says this, usually, spreading his arms like he’s caught a fish so I can make out how big he really means from a short distance.

I make big bucks ferrying chopped wood across the Mackinac Bridge. A ludicrous living. This is technically smuggling, as there is a large sign in red font slightly legible—even through my oscillopsia—warning me not to ferry the chopped wood into the Upper Peninsula, into Saint Ignace, where it usually needs to go. So I am technically a smuggler. But I always stick around to see my wares burn, and I always check for ash borers. And I’ve never been caught.

Today I’m a man.

And I go to Utro’s cabin in Carp Lake in the Lower Peninsula. Utro is one of my chopped wood suppliers, and Carp Lake is a misnomer. Carp Lake is the village. The lake in Carp Lake is named Lake Paradise. Utro waits for me in his waders at the end of the gravel drive. He wears a safety-orange hunting cap. I’ve been told his mailbox bears the image of the hammer and sickle, but from the driver’s seat of my pick-up I only see it as a bloom of red, an alien-large pistil with yellow hash marks for stamen. I slow down enough so Utro can let himself into the passenger seat.

Utro’s talks grasp all the world’s history in parenthesis, a chronological bracket. His awareness isn’t restricted to 1947 to 1991, but does orbit those years, looking out from them as if from a pair of stone watchtowers. I figure it’s good to keep in touch because at least I have tabs on where the latest Nuclear Stash is. Last week it was the Indian Sea. This week, it’s Berlin, Ohio.

“Why,” I say.

“The Mennonites don’t know any better. They don’t even know what a nuke looks like. They don’t even know the Wall fell.”

Utro knows. He keeps a chest-wide chunk of Berlin Wall in a 40-gallon fish tank in his garage. From Germany, he clarifies, not Ohio. When he invites me in to look at it, he clicks on a clamp light affixed to the garage door tracks. I press my face against the glass. My cheeks warm with hot red light, and if I squint my eyes almost shut I can make out the pale rainbow scrawlings of Eastern graffiti. Angry Germans, angry Russians. Nothing I can interpret. Utro says the purple paint means fearful, but I don’t know if I believe him for sure.

When I was one thing, and not any others,

I met Utro at the community center. We were both taking classes under the hazy leadership of a woman named Simone. Simone came from Quebec. She spoke fluent French and wanted us to succeed, she claimed. Wanted us to rightfully claim what was ours: a GED.

The seventh day, Utro sat behind me. I only noticed him when he stood up at the end of class and told Simone in Russian to eat his cock. I bummed a joint from him afterward. We sat at the edge of the nighttime parking lot where the conifers devoured it into quick darkness. Neither of us returned to class the next evening, and neither of us rightfully claimed a GED.

Over smokes, I learned Utro wasn’t Russian, but lived there for several years during his childhood and planned on returning. Then a buddy of his aimed a rifle the wrong way and took out a portion of Utro’s left brain. This happened about a year after we met. I asked him why, if he’d capably learned Russian, hadn’t he been able to pass his high school classes.

“Some things I care about,” he said. “Other things, not so much.”

We slept together. All we had was my car and a possibly expired condom from his wallet’s transparent driver’s license pocket, and we made do but it wasn’t an experience either of us was altogether stoked about afterward. I was almost relieved when the bullet scraped the memory of my naked body from his brain. Whatever I am, he’ll never know any better than how I present myself. Boom. Do-over.

Sometimes, Utro forgets my name.

I can tell when this has happened because his hands adopt a lower frequency, like a visual hum, and blur into one indistinct entity over the crotch of his waders. People say his face goes slack when he encounters a river of old memory he can’t cross or ford, but I’ve never seen his face. So I wouldn’t know.

I cock my hands like I’m holding a gun. “Info bullet!” I cry. This is the trigger we’ve developed to stun him into recalling me. It mostly works, most of the time. He jumps.

He shouts, “Dear fuck! I’ve got to get you that wood.”

“Bingo.” He forgets my name, but he never forgets what I come for. He yanks the chain on the overhead light, submerging his piece of the Berlin Wall in inky blackness. Its tank may very well fill with water when the light doesn’t shine on it.

We exit the back door of the garage into his cleared yard. He steers me by the shoulder so I don’t stumble across his stump-holes. His dog comes out from the woods. I can tell from the slosh of its breath that it’s recently been swimming.

“I have a contact in Mennonite country,” Utro says. “A member of this forum. The forum’s on the deep web. You know, it can’t be traced or anything. Off the grid, or so they say.”

“I wouldn’t know anything about that, Utro.”

“I know enough about it to know for sure. My contact sent me pictures of the Nuclear Stash in Berlin. They’re little warheads. About yea-big.”

“Fuck off and build a bomb shelter.”

“Everyone thinks I’m paranoid. I really might build a shelter. If I can get the money for it. Fuck zoning laws. No one would have to know.”

“No one would give a shit.”

He nods. “Exactly. Exactly.”

We don’t speak much for the remainder of my visit. He helps me load the bed of my truck with bundles of wood. I reach out when the hatch is shut and place my hand on his chest, and together we swipe away what splinters remain. Utro first, then me.

I call the Upper Peninsula a never-filled cup.

Canada and Russia and the Upper Peninsula all have this in common: hostile wilderness. Their portions of human life, in comparison to the wheeling mass of their lands, are bleak and insignificant. The Upper Peninsula homes pessimists and guns, usually at once, most of them with an affinity for snow mobiles. But it never homes enough of any of those things to make a difference to its ecology. The Upper Peninsula does not care about us. We’ve chained it to the mainland as best we could. I know it could buck and throw the Mackinac Bridge any day if it wanted to. Just muster up a strong enough headwind. Just yawn and stretch your spine.

Ask me how I know this.

Today I’m a woman.

I finish my drop-offs late after leaving Utro’s place. My arms and legs crackle with sinewy, taut energy as I lay flat on my spine in the back of my truck. I’m like an unfolded bird. My wings, or my human equivalent, are tender. I stare ahead at the turmoil happening in the sky—some war being fought against turbulent gray mists and near-nuclear starlight and this weird lightning that comes from nowhere. It’s certainly not heat lightning.

Occasionally, even this far below the Canadian border, Aurora Borealis comes to us. I wonder if the weird lightning is that. I know Aurora Borealis has to do with mirroring and snow crystals far at the snap-back cap of the world, but it looks more like an atomic reaction unspooling from a bolt of department store fabric, and I like to think it’s just as violent. Anything’s possible.

Utro’s contact in the Mennonite place texts me around four A.M. She says her name is Lyssa and she lives in a recreational vehicle, sends me a blurry picture of a truck with a canopy appended to it underneath the faux halo of a Walmart parking lot lamp. She says Utro’s filled her in about my situation.

What Situation? I dictate back.

The one where you’re like oil. That’s how he describes it. You’re oil and water. After this message, she sends me a picture of a grain silo far back in a field of empty furrows. That’s where they keep the warheads btw.


She sends me another picture, too dark to make out or for the text-to-speech AI on my phone to guess the contents of. I ask her to write up some identification for the picture. It’s not that I’m a skeptic, I just can’t see anything. My eyes don’t work. Don’t you wanna know how I broke them?

She doesn’t answer.

I’m not really a social person, but

there’s a party in Saint Ignace this weekend, thrown by a couple college kids who, guess what, forgot to buy wood before they set up camp. They shoot me an offer on my app I can’t refuse, so I pick up Utro and a face cord of firewood. I have seven dollars in my left pants pocket to pay for the bridge fare over. Utro has a twenty-four pack of Pabst under his feet.

The Mackinac bridge scuds through the side windows. At five miles long, Big Mac is still the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere. So long, in fact, you can feel it swaying like a loose rope strung over the strait when a gentle wind hits the flanks. It’s not that old. It’s got a few decades on Utro and me, though. Utro takes off his cap while we cross as a sign of respect. He says, “You can see the island out there, Morr. See it?” He points.

“No, Utro.” Info bullet. “I don’t.”

“Fucking shit. Sorry.”

“Remember Simone?”

“Hot bitch with the big tits?”


“Not really. I just remember she had those massive torpedo knockers and the glasses like a porn star in a secretary flick.”

“You’re fucking sick.”

“Can you even watch porn, or are you more into that new shit? Ass-mer.”

“ASMR. Not into it.”

“Fair. I kinda like the ones where the lady pretends to pluck hairs off your brow. Have you heard those?”

“No, that sounds caveman-ish, Utro. Jesus Christ. What do you get out of that?”

“Some of the chicks are really tight. Fire, you know? I guess you wouldn’t get it.”

We touch down right off the tail end of the bridge in Saint Ignace. It’s one of those nothing towns you’re probably familiar with on account of having driven too often through them. They crop up and just as quickly the horizon decimates them, crashing down in your rearview like a wave. Saint Ignace was founded by and named after some Christian men, but they chickened out. Now most of the population is Ojibwe.

The kids we’re selling to at the campgrounds are not Ojibwe. Utro clocks them for me from a mile off—white college boys, home for the holiday and bored out their noggins. They’re already lighting up cheap weed cigarettes when we pull up. Utro laughs and says their cigarettes are stupid and limp like cold cocks. He says they’ve been rolled with two left hands.

I see the smudges of the boys approaching as we begin unloading the wood bundles. The whole clearing reeks of skunky weed. The boys and trees and lake-light moving together toward me, peering around the bundles loaded in my arms, resemble koi in a hotel pond. Man-hewn. Shivering.

Utro sniffs. He gently punches my shoulder. “Creepshow, Godalike, Lean,” he says. He’s giving them names. I know immediately who’s who.

“Nice ride,” says Godalike, using the bulk of his hand to push down on the tail end of my truck. “Your shocks are fucked, though.”

“I know,” I say.

“Yours?” he asks.

“Who else?”

“What about him?”

Utro shrugs. “I can’t drive no car. I got a condition.” I don’t know if a bullet through your head counts as a condition, if that’s listed in the DSM.

“Psycho,” says Godalike. His friends snicker. I tense my arms around the wood so they can see how ready and able I am to beat the shit out of them, if given the chance.

“I hope you don’t talk to your folks like that.”

“I don’t talk to my folks.”

Lean helps me bring the wood down to their campsite. He’s little enough to toss over my shoulder if necessary, though I don’t know what might make it necessary.

I find myself too often thinking about these things. Perhaps symptomatic of a handicapped circuit of senses—I’ll be at the gas station, notching the pump into the truck’s open gas cap, slapping the cheapest fuel option with my palm, when another truck pulls up, bigger, and I squint real hard and try to perceive the steps I might take to incapacitate this stranger. A feint to starboard, hit him port, a knee between the knees and up into the saddle of manhood, that tender area between the asshole and the root of the cock. Then a jab-punch to the sternum, uppercut through the nose, dodge through the legs before he falls, roll into the station sideways, charge the balance, leave. This is one of many methods I’ve kept on deck for future use, though I’ve never had to make use of any. You never know.

Utro would kill me if he knew I kept a credit card.

I teach the kids how to make a fire.

“See. Look. Pay attention. You leave a little nest of kindling in the center like this, give it room to breathe. If it can’t fucking breathe, you got no fucking fire.”

“You remember that,” Utro tells them.

I don’t think they’ll remember. They’re just kids. Look at me. I don’t remember a goddamn thing from when I was a kid. I was a different person then. Look at Utro. I mean, really. Look at Utro.

“You remember that or I’ll kill you,”

he says.

“Okay,” says Lean.


One of the kids, I think Creepshow, has put his joint in the fire to light it, making a point of leaning into my face on the exhale. I grab the pasty willows of smoke from the air in both hands and toss them away.

“So,” he says. “You, like, a pervert or something?”

“Are you talking to me?” I ask.

“No, I’m talking to the other bitch crouching by a shitty pile of wood.”

“The wood isn’t shitty,” says Utro. “It’s quality. This wood. This wood is the best wood you can fucking buy. Especially in this crock-a-shit county.”

Creepshow doesn’t retaliate. I give him credit with a curt nod, falling back on my ass in the sharp gravel around the fire ring.

“What do you mean by it?” I ask.

Creepshow maybe shrugs. I imagine him shrugging. He seems lanky enough to pull it off. “I don’t know, I guess,” he says.

“You asked the fucking question,” says Utro.

“Yeah,” I say. “You asked, you finish what you started. Go on.”

“Or you a boy or a girl or whatever?”

“What does it matter to you?”

I decide I’m actually a man today.

Just to spite the motherfuckers.

“Well, what do we call you then?” asks Creepshow.

“By a name,” answers Utro.

“Morrow,” I say.

“That’s a fake name,’ says Lean.

“It’s a fag name,” says Godalike.

I spit at his feet. “It’s whatever.”

And Utro adds, “Shut the fuck up.”

So we shut up.

Utro goes back to the truck to get the beer, the teens go back to theirs to get tabs of acid and weird ashy doses of ketamine and enough weed to roll everyone two joints. Utro and I are old enough to know to stay away from the acid and ketamine. Old-timers, which is I guess what we are now, don’t live through bad trips with that stuff. The Hard Stuff. The kids go to town and reach their cloud nine far after Utro and I reach ours, platforming and pirouetting up on the dust we leave behind on our quick ascension. Up, up, up. And they’re up there, in their psychedelic heaven of misfortune and silver-linings, far after Utro and I decide to pitch tent by the truck’s back tire and hit the hay.

Did I mention Utro’s a heavy sleeper?


At night Lyssa calls me. Her voice is everything the text-to-speech program made it out to be: functional, deprived, and fast. She cuts to the chase. “I want to sleep with you, Morr. I’m incredibly attracted to you.”

“You’ve never even met me.”

“You’re edgy. I like that. You’ve got quirks.”

“I’m a person. I have a lot of problems. I have passive tendencies. I don’t know that I can reciprocate your feelings.”

She laughs. “Does it matter? Humor me.”

I’d like to have her here in the cab of my truck, where I might run my hands down her sides and know her outline. Or I might place my head between her breasts like some dogs stick their heads out car windows. The breasts are the window to a woman’s soul. No one says that. If I say that now to Lyssa, I’m prone to get smacked. Or at least hung up on.

I try to keep her talking, unbuttoning my pants with one hand. “Okay, okay. Talk me through this. Feed me images.”

“I have two warheads here in my shirt.”


“How about you?”

I catch her drift. “You tell me. I have whatever you want me to have.”

To her credit, she barely pauses. “You’re nothing. You don’t have anything.”

“Smooth like a motherfucking Ken doll? Is that what the Amish are into?”

“I’m not Amish. Or Mennonite. I don’t know what they’re into, other than receiving government money in exchange for the space in their grain silos.”

“Okay. So, I’m nothing.”

“Nothing,” she says.

I don’t really know what to make of her.

Nor do I know, really, what to make of this fictional situation she’s dropped my body into. Cutting up the curves, the angles, my crypts and canyons into an attractive image, like making a person from glossy magazine snippets. I used to do that as a kid, and I remember I had one collage I’d made from Britney Spears and Keanu Reeves and Missy Elliot and Kurt Cobain. I had a type, is what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, I’m not even sure I understand what it was/is now. But I’m going along with Lyssa, because if she’s right, then she’s also nothing. Maybe that’s my type.

My hand is warm

between my thighs. The muscles in the backs of my legs tighten involuntarily, my wrist caught in the contraction. It’s not perceptive anymore to say sex binds us to our birth. Well.

While this is happening, I want to tell you more about Utro. Let’s pull the curtain over my current experience with a past one. I slept with Utro after our GED class. We were sitting on the curb watching the stars tilt-a-whirl through the gaps in spacefaring dark matter. Smudges of dew running through the panes of my eyes. I was dizzy with possibilities—sitting on the curb with Utro’s hand under my leg, sort of because I inadvertently sat on it and sort of because he kept it shoved there, a little warm spot behind my thigh, provided a flimsy shield between me and the cold concrete. You’ll remember that he’d just told Simone to eat his cock. He let me bum a Newport. Between lungfuls, he ran through pedestrian Russian phrases, turning his head gently to hear me parrot them back. “Again,” he said. “Opyat.”

Kak tebya zovut.


So I said again, What is your name? And again. Until finally he smashed out his last inch of cigarette against the blacktop. “Utro. Kak tebya zovut?


Vy mal'chik ili devochka?

“Sorry, you didn’t go over that one.”

“I thought asking in Russian might piss you off less.”

“Don’t overestimate me.”

“Are you a boy or girl or what? One of those new types?”

“I don’t know. If I think about it too hard, I might stop moving and just die. Like sharks do.”

“That’s fucked. Sharks do that?”

“Sure do. I watched a documentary about it once.”

He adjusted his hand so his fingers cupped up through my knees. “Well, whatever you are,” he said. “I’ve got a Trojan or two in my wallet.”

“My truck’s parked around back. I like to be on top.”

“Damn, Morr. Fine by me.”

Utro was the last person I fucked. I’m not counting Lyssa, because even as she moans and whinnies on the other side of the border, I’m already sensing I won’t be able to finish. The sleeping bag is damp with my sweat and effort, I’m uncomfortable, the weird bend I hold my knees at fills my lower legs with stinging stardust.

The one-night stand with Utro was bad, but for different reasons. We talked all the while. He told me as I unbuttoned my jeans and kicked the belt off against the passenger door about the time he saw the Kremlin, and how speaking inside the Kremlin creates the most reverb possible without the help of digital effects. He said watching snow fall in Russia made him feel trapped inside his own life, or inside a crystal, a striate in Aurora Borealis. I tried to straddle him. The belt buckle dug into the soft spot on my knee. We both winced. I adjusted at the same time he tried to, we fell between the seat and the dashboard. Then we just went with it. We used our hands.

“I don’t know if I’m a person,” I said.

“You feel like a person,” he said, slowing down as if that might prove it to me, once and for all. A fire rose through my body.

“I’ve never met another person like me.”

“You wouldn’t know, you blind bitch.”

“I guess not. I guess I’ve never heard of another person like me, either.”

“There’s a thing that reminds me of you. V glaza l'stit, a za glaza pakostit. You carry fire and water in your hands.”

I finished, and he finished, and we exchanged addresses and didn’t speak for several weeks. The next I heard of him was after the accident. I guess he’d been carrying the Coney’s receipt I’d written my address on in the pocket of his cargo shorts. The paramedics found me in the phone book. They wanted to know if I’d come. I didn’t tell them that much, but I was the only one to show up to that dingy room of his in the recovery wing, so naturally it fell upon me to take care of him. We’ve been doing this thing ever since. The wood. The parties. The money. The forgetting.

This isn’t fun anymore.

I ask Lyssa if she’s almost done. She starts screaming down the rivers at me: “Oh, FUCK, THE FUCKING RUSSIANS ARE COMING. THE PAUL REVERE OF NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST! JESUS FUCK!”

“Are you angry?” I ask. “Are you coming?”

She moans. “You’re an insult to the good times,” she says. “Get the fuck away from me.”

I hang up.

There are shadows outside my tent, or inside.

They’re dancing or revolving around an axis. They’re laughing at me with their knife-slit smiles, all wet and opening.

“Oh, fuck off,” I say. Then I don’t really want to say anything. One of the shadows makes a jerk-off motion with one of its appendages, and I stop to button my pants before hurling my body against the PVC wall of Utro’s cheap-ass spare tent, shearing it in half.

The campsite outside is dark like black stones in a river. I have a hold on one of those darker shadows, I think it’s Godalike, he’s screaming and thrashing and slipping through my fingers like a panicked trout with a rock looming over its skull.

“Fuck, man, fuck, man, fuck, man!” He’s screaming and I can’t discern much of it except for this string of explicates. I buckle my hands into a single fist and whale with all the strength in my load-bearing forearms on the mouth these words come from.

Someone starts pulling on my shoulders. I turn and mean to deck this fucker in the cock, thinking it must be Lean or Creepshow savioring their deadbeat friend. But when I land the punch, nothing happens, except I get cold-clocked in the jaw, and I know it’s Utro.

“It’s me!” I shout. “I’m legally blind, what’s your excuse? Info-bullet, info-bullet! Jesus AyCH Christ, Utro!”

But he doesn’t comprehend me, or else has just joined in the fight for the sake of fighting, and soon bowls me over, locking me into his legs and the flurry of his brainless fists.

He’s stronger than he looks.

These are the sorts of things you know about a person after being intimate with them. Without ever having visited his house, I could tell you from that first night he owned an intricate dead-lifting system with attachable extra lugnut-shaped weights, I could tell he regularly swam to expand his lung capacity, I could tell you he was a good aim on one of those shotguns they hunt deer with.

He’s reiterating these things to my face and chest now. Each blow says: I’m stronger than you, I’m stronger than you, I’m stronger than you. And each time I block his fists in my hands and hold them momentarily in mid-air, reaching a kind of equilibrium, I’m saying: I know, I know, I know, goddammit, Utro, I’ve always known.


This gets his attention. I holler it again and again until my throat goes raw. The lanky kids scrabble to their feet and throw up dust and tear away at the speed of red taillights away from the campsite, not even breaking down their tents and trash first, just leaving it all. Utro swivels like a beetle on its back in the gravel. I ease onto my feet, testing each tendon and joint. They’re all in place. My nose feels like a hollow cavity the wind howls through.

“Get the fuck up, you cunt,” I command. “There’s no police. There’s no goddamn police, and you’re an idiot, and you ruined my night.”

I offer him my hand. We break down the site, throw everything in the truck, and go.

Today I’m

I’m apparently changing. I’m apparently getting old. Utro asks the lady ringing us up at the bridge station, “Who’s this gray bitch driving me around?” She looks at me apologetically. Five dollars of change still flap in her stiff hand, aloft over the cash till. I shoot Utro an info bullet, and he snaps to its tracer tail. “Where’s my fucking wood?!” he wails. One of these days I won’t be able to bring him back.

I never mourn these losses. I’m a machine that keeps moving forward. Orpheus can’t lose what he can’t see over his shoulder. Especially if he can’t even see his shoulder.

Nobody knows what to make of me. My body in perpetual motion. I don’t quite know what to make of it myself.

The morning after the party, I dump Utro on his couch. His dog waddles up beside him to straddle his leg in a flash, and in a flash I’m gone, out the back door. There’s nothing to moor me. I pick my way around the stump-holes. This whole yard is a plotted trajectory like a film reel unspooling in the back of my skull. I see the broken refraction of Lake Paradise. This early, with the sun leaping out of it, the lake becomes a portal of blinding fire speckled with the impossible jet darkness of fishing boats and their captains.

And I know they’re pulling big fish, because I feel the holes in the water when I put my head under. I listen hard. I know the lack of the living world—something once there, no longer.

Following a chain of linked emptinesses. I am at the bottom of the never-filled cup. When I come up for air, who knows what I’ll be. But I’ll want to know how I got this way. I’ll want to know why I’m soaking wet.

And one more thing.

In the afternoon, Utro’s up and at ‘em. He punches my shoulder as I walk past him for a towel. “You smell like fish and piss and jack.” I wheel back and lift my shirt into his beard.

“Yeah, yeah? Well, take a good long whiff, Utro. It’s the closest you’ll ever get to sex, you son of a bitch.”

“Oh, that reminds me.”

“Aw fuck. What now?”

“Come here. I wanted to show you this.”

He leads me down a set of stairs behind a flimsy clapboard door I suspect came standard during the house’s construction in the 60’s or 70’s. The walls slide threadbare and clammy against my outstretched palms, and the air reeks of mold and concrete. “You trying to kill me?” I ask, because the atmosphere down here presses in like a murder cellar. Or what I assume murder cellars press like, considering I’ve never encountered one. But I know they must exist out here, and it makes sense Utro has one.

“Naw,” he says. “And, before you guess, it ain’t my bomb shelter either. I am working on it. It’s just the basement, Morr.”

He clicks on a light. The sparse square room washes out in a pale moth-yellow glow.

“I keep my sound gear down here.”

“Sound gear?”

“Yep.” He takes my hand and I flinch. He takes it again, gentler, and presses it down on an unsanded bench. “Computer desk. Here.” He squares my shoulders over a circular pleather stool. “Sit here. Don’t freak on me.”

“Trying not to.”

“I just thought you might like it better if I didn’t tell you beforehand.”

“Scary, man. You’re scaring me.”

Pillowed headphones lower over my skull, cupping my ears. I stretch my senses to pick up on Utro’s fingers at the keyboard, a few clicks of the mouse, and then a video starts up, flush with whispers and, between the whispers, a silence so intense I want to break down and cry.

It’s so good to see you again, darling. Welcome to Miss Mimi’s Sonar Salon, where all your wildest dreams come true.

Fluffing. Fussing. Snapping of scissors. Running water. Bright nails in the snail shells of my ears, the trigger-happy passageways. I pinch my eyes shut just as Utro takes my hand again, gripping my four fingers between his fingers and his thumb, relentless, hard, just like love.

We’re starting today on your face. Don’t worry, you’re already doing great. You just need to stand still. I see you have a few hairs here…just gone astray. Just overgrown. You’re doing great, sweetie.

This experience won’t change me. My make-up is one of dissatisfaction, ongoing, throwing my body into the gears and cogs of the shroud rendering slowly before me. In the darkness, I’m okay. In the darkness, not even I know who I am.

You’ve really let yourself go.

Utro’s hand is warm. My hand is warm.

Warheads or no, we have at least this much in common.

Let me get those for you…and those… and those… let me get those, too… all better. See, you’re looking great. You look amazing…