It’s these scars I tell the doctor as he leans forward in his chair. It creaks and then he paints my face with his eyes.
We need to do something about these scars.
Later on, in the afternoon, I stroll through the park and as the joggers approach I lower my head. Later still I sit by the lake and throw stones at the moon. It separates and shivers and then clings to itself for warmth.
When I return home, and I march the dirt from my shoes before I step inside, he looks up from his magazines and smiles and I want to tear his throat out with my teeth. But I smile back and say Hi sorry I’m late have you eaten and he asks Did you know that the pollution from animal waste causes respiratory problems, skin infections, nausea, depression and even death for people who live near factory farms. I ask really and he says Yes and I know all of this already. I know that, in Indiana, livestock waste has been linked to miscarriages in women living near the hog farms. I don’t tell him this. I make dinner.
Next week I visit the doctor again and after I roll up my sleeves I say These too.
He takes me out for dinner and I want to smother his face with the tablecloth and stab the tablecloth until it looks like the carpet. Instead I ask him what it was he was saying about debeaking chickens and he reminds me that there are people eating here.
After he fucks me he explains that chickens in factory farms become aggressive due to the lack of space and they sometimes try to eat each other. That’s why they get debeaked. I ask How much space and he says As little as six-tenths of a square foot and so I decide to measure the bed.
He leaves for work and I call in sick and lie in the bath reading his magazines. The bubbles make a sound like this ` ` ` ` ` and the pages stick together and drip.
The next day, the doctor hovers over me as I spread myself flat and unbutton my shirt.
Tomorrow he calls to me while I’m burying rocks in the garden. He says Honey did you know that chickens are reservoirs for food bourne pathogens. That night I check my diaphragm for holes.
I crawl into the kitchen and punch the tiles until my knuckles bleed.
The next morning he tells me to stay in bed, that I look unwell, that eighty percent of pigs have pneumonia upon slaughter and I know why. Stagnant pools of feces and urine produce ammonia and hydrogen sulfide gases which irritate their lungs and he says Good girl.
I get up as soon as the front door chimes shut and then sit in the studio with the sun. My paintings are jumbled together and they reach out to me like starving children.
When the front door chimes again that evening I am in the kitchen and I see his feet and his briefcase and then his smile. He asks What’s for dinner and I say Whatever you like but the truth is I have already made it.
During the week I catch the bus to work. I stand beside the driver and tell him that some cows are injured or become sick during transport to the stockyards or slaughterhouse. These cows are called downers because they can no longer stand up. The downers are pushed with bulldozers into piles and then left there to die. I point at the passengers and am surprised to find that they look just like my paintings.
At the doctor’s I slip out of my skirt and point to a spot just below my knee and say This should be the first one to go.
We catch up with friends and I wear my white dress. They open the door and sing to us and I am tangled up in arms and jewelry. Later on we sit and talk about the weather. Then She carries out plates and on the plates are thin strips of veal. I say That looks interesting and everyone agrees. He and She chew for a long time, I think, and then He says This is so beautiful and tender and I want to say It’s also very light in colour don’t you think. But if I say this She would find it commendatory and I would have to tell her that the reason for this is the iron-deficient, anemia-producing liquid that veal calves are force fed from birth. And then She would ask us to leave.
On the train to work I sit next to a man even though there are many seats free. He is sleeping in his suit and on his lap there is a newspaper. In his ear I whisper I would like to show you some photographs taken from inside an abattoir. He stirs and wets his lips. Many piglets die under the weight of their mothers, trapped in a pen so small the mother cannot turn around or roll over.
In his sleep he asks me if I’m happy. Rabbits are used for eye irritancy tests because they have no tear ducts and can’t cry the chemicals out. Are you happy he asks.
I walk home and pass a man holding a sign. He stops me and I ask him if he is happy. I have seen innocent animals having their heads bashed in with a captive bolt pistol, the man holding the sign says.
I bump into a woman as she crosses the street and I ask her if she is happy. The kill rate in a slaughter house is four hundred animals an hour, the woman crossing the street says.
I help a lost child find his mother and I ask the child if he is happy. Farmers use pliers to break off the ends of piglets’ teeth and chop off their tails, the little boy says as he hugs his mother’s legs.
They do this because the confinement of the crowded pens causes neurotic disorders like tailbiting and cannibalism.
They do this without anesthetic.
When he walks in I am sitting in my studio drinking coffee. He points at the paintings and asks Why don’t you take better care of those.
We fuck for a long time that night and, as he comes, he asks me why I hide rocks in the garden. Why I sharpen them. Why I bury them in such shallow vents.
And I can feel the moon using the clouds as a blanket. And I can smell the cold settle in. And I turn away from him.
I didn’t know this but factory farmed hens, laying hens they’re called, become lame and develop osteoporosis from forced immobility and from all the calcium lost to produce egg shells. I didn’t know this but the laying hens sometimes starve to death because their feet have grown around the wire cage floors and they can’t reach the food in the troughs.
I take a pin and punch three more tiny holes in my diaphragm.
Before I leave the morning behind, he takes me by the wrist and leads me into the garden. Every blade of grass is blue and I notice that so are his hands and clothes. He smiles, and then points, and by the fence there is a miniature lighthouse.
Male dairy calves are confined in tiny veal crates that are too small for them to turn around in, he says. And he smiles.
The doctor tells me to get dressed and then, as I’m tying the laces on my shoes, he asks What scars.