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Two Stories
by Jessica Slater

Tortilla Soup

Today only water, maybe some juice.

We inhabit spaces, circumferences always slightly smaller than ours. These modern corsets will squeeze us tight.
We examine boxes: the labels, vitamins, fats, pseudo-gods in columns and rows. These are our matrices, everything must fit.

We are hungry. The hard knot inside us is certainty. We can feel it, a kernel, a core. We long for this solidity, as we empty ourselves.

Water fills us up; water dissolves us, washes us away.

We walk into a shop. We spend hours. Think of the hours we spend, all of us! We calculate: an inexplicable formula of desire, food groups, dimly-grasped notions of nutrition, fear, denial, love and/or lack of love. And hunger, threading through.

Wearied from battle, our spiritual calculus determines the answer: tortilla soup.
Thick, spicy, full of love.

(Tomorrow only water, maybe some juice.)

We make mannequins of our lives. We will consume ourselves until we weigh nothing at all, and we will be spoken of in hushed voices: the women who disappeared.

High Wire

It is stronger than gravity; she is plummeting to the earthy core of her heart in wild and excruciating freefall.

She thinks she is too old for this. Life has its anchors around her feet, around her ribs, squeezing tight, deep in the backs of her eyes. These tensions wrack her body in flight.

She barely knows him. He is a bright shard of light around a door, cracked open. She knew this would come. She knew it couldn't be so easy, to wed, to be done. Here it is knocking, knocking breath from her body like a fighter.

She kisses her husband briefly and leaves the house. She kisses her husband briefly and enters the house. He is a gatekeeper. She is let in. She lets herself in and out, in and out, in her mind. He doesn't see her coming undone.

It isn't a decision; she sees no alternatives. She thinks these things should be clear, but in this case nothing is clear, the truth is stubborn and indecipherable.

She must deserve this. She must have been careless. She feels the weight of her wedding band, twists it around on her finger. This is how her life will be. She is falling, falling into life, falling away.

She parks her car two blocks away from their house. She sits and listens to the traffic around her, the ebbs of sound like an ocean. She is suspended, an air pocket of stillness, the pause button pressed, a slow furious heat.

She spins like an acrobat. She finds her own feet, hands wrapped around ankles forming a circle, an endless loop, curved and bright as a moon.

She is balancing on a high wire. She refuses to come down. She wants her stranger; she wants her life husband house history love. She cannot move.

Then suddenly it slides by like the traffic: a brief eclipse.

Her eyes are wet, she lets the tears fall. She looks at the street, blurry then clear, finding focus. She wipes her face with a tissue. Her eyes glisten.

She starts the car, listens to the engine turn. She drives the rest of the way home. She kisses her husband briefly and enters their house. She takes off her coat. She sits, she settles into the couch. She watches her husband move about the kitchen, the slight curve of his back, the long arms that will encircle her in sleep.

About the author:
Jessica Slater grew up in England, spent 3 years in France and now lives in Denver, Colorado. She works at the Rocky Mountain News and is also managing editor and production director for Wazee, an online literary journal featuring new, independent writing.

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