Picking Up the Pieces
Michelle Reale

My father leans close to me in the car. Move back I tell him. Put your seatbelt on I plead, for the third or fourth time. I’ve lost count. I would reach over to put it on him, except I don’t want to be that close to him. When I am, I feel something rise through my center and I’ve spent too long holding it down for it to see the light of day. He is opening his mouth now, gaping. Close your mouth, Dad, I tell him and he looks at me like he doesn’t understand. I don’t know what is real with him anymore. He takes a swipe at my breast and I see a dim flicker in his eye. I curse and slap harder than I thought I could. He slides a quick, rough hand on my thigh. I am twelve yelling at my mother –he touched me!!!– while she smoked her cigarette with impassiveness, her eyes dry and hard. The car swerves. I find peace for one moment in the horrible silence after impact. My father is scratching his head as if figuring out a riddle. I find my legs and climb out the car. My father stands next to his pride and joy looking as though he wants to kill me. Dumb bitch. His words confirm the hunch. He exits the car feigning the shuffle that comes and goes. I want to find the words. When the police come, my father is picking up glass, the shards of the red backlights, putting them in his pockets. Picking up all of the pieces. For once. I see small red patches of blood on his hands. He wipes them on his pants and looks at me without a word. I look at the blooming red stains and put my arms around my ribcage, holding myself up, in spite of everything. My blood, I want to shout.  My shards. My pieces. My life.

Michelle Reale is the author is several collections of poetry and is the Editor-in-Chief of Ovunque Siamo: New Italian-American Writing.