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He says your name like a slur, like a prayer, like a plea. This is where you live—in the space between synonyms. Watch the Sound of Music and create your own list: the way snow settles on tree branches, eyelashes brushing against glasses, elephant stickers, and women who smile at hello. He kisses with the right and determination of a man who has bothered to ask. Find power in the square of your shoulders, in the sting of your palm, the flight of your skirt. He likes to say he’s fallen in love with a star. He says you are as radiant as you are unstable: a woman powered only by the sporadic collision of her increasingly heavy thoughts. Remember your third grade friend—how she once bounced a pebble over a frozen lake and took those three grams to mean the ice was strong enough to hold her body. Remember the cracks and how fear sparks at the navel, fills the lungs and consumes the heart. Remember how she skirted off before pieces of ice could drift beneath the surface, how you two fell back together in the snow—all gasp and all touch. He tells you about the women he’s been with. You know their names and how well they give head. You ask about the size of their hands and the shape of their eyes. You ask if their laughs were hiccups or sobs, how they looked in the middle of the afternoon when sunlight cascaded through open blinds to light flyaway hairs and asymmetrical dimples. Collect details of the women who came before. He asks how you would choose to die if you had to die violently. It’s not a threat, it’s a game. But when you say you’d want to be blown up, he tries to tell you that’s the wrong answer. That you should want the death with the least amount of pain possible. Insist. You want to know what it’s like to exist in pieces.

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