– Fierce Fiction by Lara Henneman –
I have lived with the bullet for 36 years, longer than I lived with my mother. My bullet is what it is. It has been lodged in my lower vertebrae since a sunny afternoon in 1985 when I walked to the corner store to buy a Tab and Mallo Cup after school. A white guy with black hair and grey teeth was sitting in a brown Buick on Everston. He was waiting for a woman who he felt was his woman. She walked out. I walked by, and into the bullet that he intended for her.
A domestic. Happens anywhere one member of the family does not believe that the other family members are full human people in the way he is a full human person. I was not a part of their family, but suddenly, I was joined to them by blood and sinew.
I do not remember near-death, the sandbar before oblivion. I remember a tepid spring breeze ruffling my bag, wondering if my friend Sheila could bring her Tina Turner tape over later. I did not see the man in the car or the bullet. I saw my afternoon ahead of me, and then my mother’s face when I awoke in Sinai Hospital with tubes coming out of every important part of my body.
I saw the woman a year later at the arraignment. She had lipstick and cold sores, tissue paper bags under her eyes. I recognized her as somebody’s cousin who graduated with my brother. She had two clean and hollow looking kids with her. Before the lawyers could stop her, she came over and grabbed my hand. “I’m so sorry. It should have been me,” she whispered. She would be dead within the year, heroin cold by the time her mother and kids came back from holiday shopping at Lexington Market.
West Coldspring is a small neighborhood, half Black, half Jewish. Segregation and white flight reached it but ran out of steam, the racial in-flow and out-flow caught in an eddy. A quiet place to grow up, usually. We didn’t move away, though I would have liked that. The ramp and stair chair allowed me some mobility but drained my parents’ savings and their goodwill for one another until my father moved to Pittsburgh with his friend’s wife.
My mother died in 1995 and left me the house, her painted tiles against the fence. I watch my neighbor’s children climbing their swing set and read the newspaper religiously. Every year there are a few deaths like mine will be, complications of years- or decades- old shootings. I’m friendly to the Meals on Wheels people when they come, but short-tempered without meaning it when my brother visits. He lives in Atlanta now, in a high-rise with his new wife. He said she was a journalist, but she just reads a teleprompter on TV.
My bullet has been eroding into my spinal cord for the last ten years, the sandbar under my feet slipping away. One day it will take me and then I will be gone, a half-life lived on the shore between the stairs, and the road, childhood and death, the woman on the stairs and the man in the car.
About the Author – Lara Henneman
Lara Henneman writes fiction, essays, and poetry. Her work is featured or forthcoming in Sky Island Journal, Mom Egg Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Mutha Magazine and more. She is currently working on her first novel. She lives in Maryland (USA) with her growing family. Find her on Twitter @lhenpen or join her reader list at www.larahenneman.com.
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