It begins with the stain. Hers, not his, on the hem of the gown, imperceptible to his eye. But I see the stain as I see her. 

Burnt. Red-rust. Soiled. 

I imagine it creeping up the gown, engulfing her and that shockingly tinny laughter that she possesses, the hollow-can sound it makes. 

And then it takes him, swallows him in rust, ruining him for forever.

My face hurts. The smile, the one we practice, must be pasted there somewhere.

My eyes tear away from her rust stain, searching for his. 

Ours meet. 

Faintly, in the hollowed halls of an abandoned room, I hear the voice. 


Something follows slowly,crawling through time.

Speak now.

My mouth moves silently, picking apart the language, struggling to find words that we can agree on, something that might make sense. 

Speak now or forever

It can end there, in the not ending. Forever is not eternal, but it is more than this. If words escape me now I have forever to decide

Speak now or forever hold your peace

Peace? Piece? 

Peace of mind? Peace of body–lonely and aching? Absence? Is this peace?

Piece of mind? His? Or mine? Insufficient. Inadequate. Incomplete. 

A hand moves–mine. 

Our eyes meet. His questioning. And mine?

He reaches

For the ring. Grabs my hand instead. 

The sound the others make–it should sound like laughter, sounds like laughter to them. 

To me

To us?

To me is sounds like rain. 

Feels like rain. Always inconvenient. Brief. Abrupt. 

A joke is made in a language that I understand

But cannot speak. 

He didn’t speak it before

But he smiles now and feignspretendslies


I should be speaking. Now. Speak now. 

The moment passes. The peace is held. (The piece is held).

The ring falls, summoned to the ground. 

I reach

He reaches

He meets the rust before I. 

The pause, the piece of the service for which

We didn’t prepare. 

I watch as it creeps into his eyes and he draws them up up up

The length of her. 

Peace gone. A piece gone. 

Ours meet. 

Speak now or forever

My heart skids to a halt before crashing. The stain, transferred to him

Imperceptible to her. 

I reach for him, to sweep it from his shoulder

He reaches back

Ours meet

The peace is held.

pull the rope and hang me high

$114,090. One-hundred fourteen thousand, ninety dollars. The most recent letter is decidedly less pleasant than its forefathers, reading:

“Dear ______,

You have been given ample time to respond to us concerning your now seriously delinquent account. We have been reasonable and patient and yet you have not responded.”

It continues after, but my eyes are drawn inexorably to the claims of reason. I want to call. I want to offer derisive laughter and genuine nonchalance. I want to display it proudly.

Instead it disintegrates and I inhale it and it becomes a part of me. The number tattoos itself to my eyelids, the words “we have been reasonable and patient” following me into sleep, stalking me like an unwanted lover.

I want to hang myself with rope.

There are easier ways. No, not easier. Less obvious ways. Onehundredfourteenthousandninety milligrams of Percocet would suffice. Irrational and improbable, but efficient.

Stones in my pocket and Wolfe at my back would be easier. I would struggle briefly, panic temporarily. . .but then I would drift off and welcome sleep.

I like living well enough. I am attached to being, I suppose. I have only ever known being. Anger flares within me, thinking again about his words (I have decided that He, a nameless He, has composed the letter. No, not nameless. Craig. This seems like the work of a Craig.). He accuses me while I sleep.

Your reason can kiss my ass Craig. You can take your patience and you can use it to fuck yourself Craig.

Craig wants me to do it. As he holds the number over me, the onehundredfourteenthousandandninety is slung over my neck like a noose. I stare into Craig, his glittering coal-like eyes open greedily, his red mouth agape, letting his forked tongue taste the air, my impending death feeding his need.

Courage is not all that is needed for the stones or the pills. Will. I must also have will. I do not.

But Craig has it. Let Craig do it. Go on, Craig. You know you want to. Think about your patience. Think about how reasonable you’ve been. The time you have given me has been ample.

Go on, Craig. Pull it. Pull the rope and hang me high.