The Bay-Crane outside my window lifts a fifteen foot long steel girder the dirty color of rust ten stories up, directs it gently though an open window to a pair of rough gloved hands the color of old newspaper. Building up the inside, building a new home in an old house. It looks like the toys I played with as a child.
Cutting away the coarse encroaching hairs from the tops of my hands the scissors slips around the knuckle. Blue blood turns red. Oxidizes; it will dry to the dirty color of rust.
We rest. There is blood on the wall behind from a previous year. Brown-red scratches on the sheetrock drawn with a pushpin dipped in an accidental cut. She made me do it, but I was weak and let her make me. Non serviam, I wrote, squeezed, drew out enough to make an underline. Dedalus, Lucifer. Neither. Rebelled against a wall, not god, in cowardly silent script. Screams in small uneven letters. Cowardice bleeds itself.
Fool. Fear writ large. They painted over it with white.
It outlived her.
Slice. Paper cuts skin like paper, paper cuts. Sealing wax, burgundy like a deep wound. Cracked through another her's monogram. The edge pulls across a fingertip; the trail wells up from beneath. Seeps out a razor's map of where her words touched first. Draw the edge across the eyes; see what bleeds.
Memory wells up from beneath.
Two New Year's Eves. Gloved hands in hand together speckled with the dirty color of shredded newspaper. Scott's city, black and gray. Blue to me, her eyes' blue, and pink the blood beneath her skin. Fluid, fresh, flow freely, tilt mouths and open lips to pour. Vapor burns the falling freezing bits of paper.
"Not so cold, now, is it?"
"Will you stay?"
"I will come back."
"You will stay"
"I want to."
Could not; now gone, and never going back. That time is past, du temps perdu, read another book looking for another life.
Hers is found. A new home. She tells me in even flowing cursive, smooth, not scrawled. She writes, still flows and pours and burns, no tiny scripted scream. A song.
Partial thumbprint by her, her name. Press down hard to complete. Little needles draw, microscopic capillaries, pull and spread me over it. We leave marks on each other.
Top right drawer, behind the binding clips, an ancient bottle of white correction fluid.
Twisted to the left the neck splinters into dust.
They've left another girder dangling outside. Just a matchstick without base or bolts. Half-burnt and rocking, crumbling cells of iron slough off at every touch. It probably tastes the same as me.
I need refinishing.
Place the pad to close the cut. To clot. Seal the surface or rust through.
A stranger. "I cut myself."
"Ouch. Didja clean it first?"
"It'll get infected."
"I'll take my chances."
I took my chances. She took hers. They marry, the women you have loved. You left. And then in leaving want them back.
A signature in ink bled into my blood. Her name written under my skin.
It will get infected. I will scratch and pick, come back and back and back. Revisit the words: crack the seal. Reading, cringing til I rust in place. Crying to the wall til they paint me over white, scratches of brown-red, crying, Qualis artifex pereo! in small uneven letters. Telling lies in blood makes them no less lies.
Cowardice bleeds itself to death.