My father is the one who named me; perhaps it’s his fault I fell.
En masse, we are the blank space around a black hole. Devoid of even dust, we stand stripped and wait for gravity to pull us down.
When they call me, they are all business. This Saturday. Cherry Hill Chapel. Service starts at ten.
Like nuns at prayer they hang, shoulder to shoulder, inside my closet. Sensible. Sexy. Sinful. In each one I am a different bird, my feathers so securely fastened to my bones that even up close it’s impossible to see me beneath my costume.
He calls out her name.
He wants me to hurt him.
Humans don’t understand that pain doesn’t stop pain. The only way to heal is to forget.
In every gesture, there are many smaller moves. From these I piece him together like a jigsaw puzzle, pull him apart again.
Five hundred dollars, cash, for the funeral. One thousand if he takes me home, and five thousand for the rest. They say “there won’t be a rest.”
There always is.
He says he can hear voices. Her voice. She is telling him to do this, or not to do this, or that she’s watching like a god from her heavenly throne.
Sounds more like hell to me.
“My wife better not find out about this.”
Sometimes we just lie there. He will talk about her, and I will listen.
“You’re nothing like her.”
It should be harder. It should take more than a hand on an elbow, a glance across the aisle.
Never a Hotel
He doesn’t want foreign. He wants his house, his side of the bed, his blue striped sheets with human-shaped shadows. If he did want a hotel, I’d need to come back.
There are not five stages of grief. Pain is not linear. Sometimes it’s a Roman candle, sometimes a glowing coal. Always lit by fire, because there is one stage that’s never skipped.
They begin to recognize me, but only through a nod or an arched eyebrow. Never a name. Like them, I am just another part of the production.
Is it legal? Don’t you feel bad? Does it pay well? Do you like it?
No. No. Yes. Sometimes.
“I’m sorry, I don’t recognize you. Did you know Melinda?”
“From college, but recently we lost touch. I feel terrible about it now.”
“Don’t. Melinda was an independent woman, and she didn’t want anyone to see her suffer. It makes sense that you two would have drifted apart.”
It’s always too easy.
is what they call me when I don’t come back. They don’t understand that Satan doesn’t save.
On my days off, I visit my aunt and daughter at my house on Long Island. I wear yellow and bring Missy a doll, my aunt a box of macaroons.
They know that they can have either the house or me, and no one ever asks me to stay.
I never offer.
must be done in the dark. Understanding comes afterward.
Sometimes called wakes, though we can’t be bothered with late-night vigils and only refreshments happen in the home. Perhaps it’s better that things have become more efficient; eating a tuna sandwich is its own way of letting go.
It’s not just for the money.
It’s not just for fixing what was broken when my father died. From heartbreak, they liked to say, as though what he did was honorable.
But it’s not not for those things, either.
People want to believe we’re saving a piece of ourselves, that our lips give us some kind of virginity.
Perhaps it’s better that way. Every man will think he’s special when I kiss him.
is what I say when they ask to see me again. Then I give them the number for Pizza Palace.
My friends ask if I will ever fall in love again. I tell them that when you’ve seen what happens after you win the game, you’d rather stay on the board; they are happily married and don’t understand.
When the time comes, their children will find my number.
They will agree to my price, and I will don my best black dress.
Their husbands will call out their names.
And then they will call out mine.
Kelly Ann Jacobson is the author or editor of many published books, including novels such as Cairo in White, the poetry collection I Have Conversations with You in My Dreams, and anthologies such as Dear Robot: An Anthology of Epistolary Science Fiction. She also writes young adult speculative novels under her pen name, Annabelle Jay, and is represented by the Stringer Literary Agency. Kelly received her MA in Fiction at Johns Hopkins University, and is now working toward her PhD in Fiction at Florida State University. Her work can be found at www.kellyannjacobson.com or www.annabellejay.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at @KAnnJacobson.