My first lover made me second to fantasy, and when I left him to it, he did a black magic ritual to forget. I woke up to my second’s hands roving over things that are precious and mine, who told me it was my fault he acted this way moments before we went to my grandmother’s house to cut my birthday cake. He made me second to a pile of money and those devils he called Father and Mother’s suggestion that I wasn’t June Cleaver enough for their lifestyle. Time always forgives him this, because I cut him so precisely in revenge with my third, who, a sociopath, cut me twice as deep in return. I carry his scars on my face, and whenever they flare up, I nearly throw myself on my hidden pack of Marlboros, my whiskey, my knife. I had never loved my first and second as desperately as I loved my third, and he used it as a tool to whittle me away into a different breed of Cleaver. And when I finally broke, shrapnel flying, the guilt of my recklessness ate away everything but my bones.
With my fourth, now, I am an animated skeleton, and on my door it says, “Go ye to purification, and bring forth the serpent of redemption"—and I do, every night, praying for forgiveness as I kneel before him, playing the serpent. For the most, he is more than I deserve, but those moments when red-hot iron becomes his eyes and his fists on my flesh, that old self—that hungry thing preying from man to man to man, praying for fulfillment in the form of eight inches or more, and mostly being disappointed—that my old skin, hanging like leather in my closet, begs for me to wear it and return to the hunt. I frantically cut away any hope by cutting a little more of it off. If I were to kill as I have killed, I will lose that last granule of worth that I have spent so long cultivating, guarding, fighting for to the teeth. I have settled in this life like dust settles in an attic, for the Bird of Hermes is my name, and I ate my wings to make me tame.
SKYLAR ALEXANDER is the Assistant Program Director of the Young Emerging Writers Program at the Midwest Writing Center in Davenport, Iowa and editor-in-chief of earthwords: the undergraduate literary review. She currently lives in Iowa City, Iowa.