Magnolias in a Hurricane
by Shaun Terry
He sat across from me, the skin on his face bunched and tense, seeming to stretch and contract, in several directions, and all at once. I could feel the breadth of the lump in his throat, and I waited for the tears in his shimmering eyes to reach a critical mass. The wind blew a swollen, acidic air, and I could smell magnolias, from a few hundred yards away. His breaths carried the weight of an elephant’s feet, but his heart didn’t beat so much as oscillate.
He hooked his eyes into mine, enslaving me to sympathetic anguish. Where, moments earlier, the world had seemed tidy and joyous, my stomach had lost its balance. With his help, I was suddenly reeling from the unforgiving recognition of unwitting cruelties, isolations, and insignificances.
He spoke deliberately, trying, in vain, to hide himself among all these people. His voice maintained slow, legato slides from one pitch to the next, above undergirdings of broken, sporadic vibrato. I felt trapped – naked in his assault – him striking at my feelings of guilt and duty.
And I wouldn’t escape without committing to bloodying my hands.
Because, for all my progress and self-defense, I could never be very different from him.