Central Standard Time
by Sarah Elgatian
According to Google Maps I would ride my 10-speed Trek three-point-three miles to your house every day when I still
lived at home. Life was such hell back then, remember, because I had to balance work and my parents and my time with
We had that first fight because we’d never talked exes before and I couldn’t lie to you. But then you stormed off through abandoned backyards and half-abandoned neighborhoods, so I cried and cried and tried to follow you—I couldn’t afford to lose you.
So I went back to your place and when you showed up it turned out that you were just as scared as I was. So we figured out that we weren’t perfect.
So I left. We would never be perfect and I knew that if I didn’t leave then I never would, and I wanted something populated and vibrant, and
According to Google Maps there are one-thousand-nine-hundred-eleven miles between my place and yours. Yesterday there was nothing but distance between us. And yesterday that was okay.
But then a skinny white boy from the west side with dirt on his face and brass on his knuckles punched a few times to see if I was listening.
I wasn’t listening.
I had no intention of listening. I left that life behind me when I filled two suitcases with clothes and closed my eyes. I packed those bags myself and walked intentionally away from that place that never should have been.
That white kid with his brass knuckles had a name. But he didn’t really matter until those brass knuckles punched and punched until they got through to me—
This is the real world, babe.
So one-point-seven miles from your mom’s house and point-eight miles from your new place you stabbed your brand new trench knife into his chest four times because he just wouldn’t stop hitting, and—
I had forgotten this life.
I forgot those empty streets and the violence that starts when it’s after 2 and there’s no more booze and you’ve spent too much time inside because of a record snowfall and your friend makes you get out of bed to go stop a fight and suddenly the person who introduced me to peace is holding a bloody knife and it’s not just a pocket knife held up to a creep’s throat as a threat to get him to take his hands off of me.
This time it’s for real and the guy shouts and
and now you’re back in my life and I have this grip on our relationship so tight that my hand is cramping because if I let go there’s no telling whether you’ll ever be safe.
So there’s this piece of me that I threw away when I hopped on a plane out of central standard time… and that piece of me knew how to react to this overexposed photo of you with the blank look of a criminal on your face and your head pressed up against a board counting off 70 inches behind you.
Instead, I just stare, unsure of the reality inside this photograph, like you died right in that flashbulb. Like I’m looking at the remains of the boy who begged me to stay home in the roach-infested house neither of us could afford because he was too afraid to lose our love.
It’s a felony—stabbing someone. And I won’t be any closer if you’re taken away. I won’t be able to protect you or tell myself you’re alright. I’ll probably just sit here like I do now staring at the two-thousand-forty-three miles on Google Maps because prisons aren’t shown on street view.
But they wouldn’t lock you up. They wouldn’t break this grip I’ve reattached to you just to uphold a law.
Laws take so little into account. They don’t care that you were trying to keep Brass Knuckles from killing a friend. The law doesn’t care that your eyes are like cola or that you love with your muscles. The law doesn’t care that it could break a boy who would otherwise play a role in the saving of—of something.
The law doesn’t care that I love you. Now. From one-thousand-nine-hundred-eleven miles away. Or that I won’t survive your incarceration.