I close my eyes tight, but they inevitably
flip open, the light from her room
an elongated triangle on the floor of the hallway.
If I peek in just right, I can make out
her deep brown, wiry hair splayed on her white pillow
like spilled coffee over a tiled floor, seeping in the cracks.
A cockroach scurries along the nappy, burgundy carpet
pausing briefly, its antennas twitching like someone
trying to get the radio station just right.
I shift on the couch, pull my short, denim skirt down my thigh
the heat from the summer day still clinging to my skin.
It is still, too quiet, but over the putter of the air conditioner,
I hear their voices, soft at first, then a bit louder
a man clearing his throat promising to call her tomorrow.
I wonder why she brings them home, gives them hope
when they always leave, it is just the two of us again
her body next to mine on the couch, her arm slung over my waist
casually, her hot breath against my neck asking if I am awake,
when I know she can see the gleam in my open eyes.
Jennifer Novotney’s work appears in Buddhist Poetry Review, The Beatnik Cowboy, and The Vignette Review, where she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She won the 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for her novel, Winter in the Soul. She lives in Pennsylvania where she teaches English at a small independent school.