10 Ways of Seeing You
1. A winter storm warning calling for five to eight inches of slushy, tire-skidding, getting-my-socks-wet snow. You thaw and refreeze, but you’re always sticking to my Alaskan surface. I’m tired of the cold, but I keep moving further north.
2. Red wine rings on the kitchen counter getting wiped up by thin paper towels. Those burgundy relics remind me to refill my mug with your bittersweetness. I love the way you stain me with your vibrancy, but goddamn, I keep getting headaches on Thursday mornings.
3. Drops of blood on the mail-order mattress that I cleaned up with my spit and a bit of dish soap. It’s like my body is resisting pleasure, but you were always a team player and didn’t mind getting your dick wet with my poorly-timed menstruation.
4. Weed stems sticking to my wool socks and getting caught in the lint trap of our 1980s stackable dryer. I’m picking the little sons-of-bitches off my sweaters at my cubicle and hoping no one notices.
5. Coca-Cola bottles pushed underneath the couch with bunches of chewing tobacco globbed up at the bottom. I have to double-check all those half-drunk beverages to make sure I don’t accidentally swallow a potion of dark brown sugar water, poison, and your sweet, sweet DNA. Sometimes I crave what’s bad for me, but I’m anxious to read the Nutrition Facts label.
6. A faded, scruffy pair of gray Nikes that you keep putting on even when the heels wear too thin and the traction is for shit in the ice and snow. Our souls are twins that keep convincing us to drag our feet when we walk, but it’s like our secret language ‘cause I can always hear you coming around the corner.
7. Waking up feverish to the sweat drying on my chest and pulling away from you even though I want your body touching mine. I move back a few inches and slide my hand in the pocket of your sweatpants ‘cause I want a place to anchor myself when my mind goes wandering at night.
8. Great Value angel hair pasta and Newman’s Own marinara sauce overcooking on the stovetop. The pasta bunches up and sticks together in the pot because I keep forgetting to stir it and I’m too afraid to add oil to water. A $4 dinner always tastes better with you by my side on the couch we bought on clearance.
9. A crusty ring of dried toothpaste around the cap that I swore I just picked off and rinsed down the drain. We always stand before the bathroom mirror with our overused brushes in our mouths, half-dressed and running late for work.
10. Double-stacked Rubbermaid boxes made into a desk complete with your laptop, calculator, and the notebook I decorated with packing tape and magazine clippings. You’re studying for your CPA test to push us towards the end of poverty and a terrifying new life so far away from the ones that we laugh about with fading indigenous accents. Superman had a day job with that newspaper and you’re putting in double-overtime working for The Man and me.
A,B,C: An Inventory of Those Trying to Break Me
His hands always felt so sweaty to me, like he was just waiting for me to run away and ready to catch me sprinting for the door. There was a smell to A that I could never remove from my skin that was like some kind of fucked up blend of Old Spice deodorant and cigarette smoke and maybe something like stale Doritos and Nikolai vodka. Whatever the potion, I was drawn to its familiarity.
A was always waiting and it was his undeterred faith in me that made it harder and harder to break his heart every single time I did it. And I kept looking into his eyes even though I knew it was fucking him up, fucking me up. I was a little kid in footie pajamas watching Freddy and Jason face-fuck corpses and I couldn’t look away ‘cause I knew I’d get a rush of adrenaline. Destruction is fun to watch when it’s not your structure that’s getting torn down.
Those hazel eyes just bore into me and didn’t give a damn where my vital organs were. He consumed all of me and I let him.
I just hope he knows what kind of doses he can handle and doesn’t overdose on the drug that’s trying like hell not to kill him.
The hair framing her face grows in extra fine, like the hair of a newborn. Tiny sections of flyaways pop out from an unkempt bun—never combed. She likes when her dark auburn hair twirls into loose dreadlocks after several days of neglecting to run so much as a hand through it. A bit of acne dusts her cheeks like a light scattering of stones on a blushy hillside at sunset. She’s one of those paintings that Monet forgot to paint.
She’s a tour-de-force with a warm can of Coors Light in her hand. A lightning bug in a snowstorm, a little spider spinning wicked webs in a jar.
She’s a hurricane in a water bottle, that love of mine.
Giving me all kinds of reasons why the past is so fine; everything’s just alright if we push it further and further back in time. She finds reasons to laugh with a knife in her hand, that queen of macabre, queen of cacophony.
I told her everything dies, like I was some kind of old sage come back from Eden to save us all. I’m just a jester in the king’s clothes; I’m just a petty criminal in district court and I’ll tell you I’m awful sorry about all those little things I stole from the corner store. B’s the judge with the world’s biggest gavel in her hands and she’s trying like hell to stamp me out.
And sometimes I worry she’ll win and I’ll come back home with my head hung low like I fell off the wagon again. There’s no one in this world that could make me so guilty and so careless at the same time. Hell, sometimes they call her a witch ‘cause no one can take souls captive better than that girl who’ll talk shit straight to your face with no trace of fear in her eyes.
Cut the shit like you’re a motherfuckin’ butcher. Tell her you love her when she’s making you pull your hair out in the middle of the night. Sometimes I’ll reach around my scalp for the thickest, coarsest strand and I’ll flip my mop of hair around just trying to rid my skull of the most unruly pieces. That’s B working her spells again. Fuckin’ sorceress. I can’t get her out my head and she knows it.
“Oh, oh whooooa sweet child of mine!”
You’re making it so much easier to be soft like Sweetheart sandwich bread. I’m fully surrendering to you and you know it. Grab my wrists and push me against the wall and kiss me hard until I’m begging you to take me away from myself.
“And we’ll all float on, okay. And we’ll all on float on, anyway.”
There’s stretches and scars on your skin that you’re wearing like a superhero’s clothes. C, Baby, can you tell me about that one on your knuckle again, about that time you pushed your fist into Josh’s face at school?
I’d tell you you’re such a fucking badass, but I don’t know if it counts if it’s coming from a head-case like me.
I’m a stupid little grass fire and you’re always there to douse your heavenly raindrops on the wreckage.
“You, you used to have all the answers. And you, you still have them, too.”
Those days you stay silent have me wondering where I left those torn pieces of my construction-paper heart. At the baseball field where I threw that empty bottle of Nikolai over the stands? On the lines of your eyebrows that I constantly trace with my index finger? Inside the condom that broke the first time we fucked?
I just glue all the pieces back together after another one of my existential scavenger hunts that keep me up at night. We’re like a kid’s first shitty art project on display for the whole shopping mall to walk past on a Saturday morning.
“I will possess your heart.”
Bubblegum ice cream at the Kmart eatery,
Birdseed, 10-speed bikes, yellow school bus mornings.
Powwow dancing queen wearing pawn shop beadwork,
The only thing I really, really wanted to be good at.
Alonzo sings along to the Killers in the dark,
Allie takes a shot to the torso and I cry at the football field.
No one else comes to my birthday party, so I make out with my best friend
And decide maybe I might also like girls.
An under-aged taste for cheap vodka on Tuesday afternoons,
A handful of Tylenol PM, and a pitiful attempt at suicide.
I meet my future husband at a basketball tournament,
Common Law marriage at nineteen.
“Not Indian enough,” and then, “too Indian,”
I pull my hair out strand by strand to pacify the storm.
We still sit in the green recliner where Grandpa died,
Afraid that someone dies every time I go home for Thanksgiving.
A light box shines in my face for 25 minutes every morning,
Give up weed and booze and sleep and maybe everything will be okay.
My first boyfriend gets hit by a car in a snowstorm,
My first crush is an arsonist and murderer and writes to me from prison.
I can properly use Chicago Style, but I never had a real job,
My name is the first one called on graduation day and I am not high enough.
Forgetting how to be poor, and then remembering in earnest,
Running away to Alaska.
Kristie Russette is a member of the Chippewa-Cree tribe located in north-central Montana. She is a recent graduate of Montana State University where she studied fine art and writing. In 2017, she ran away to Alaska where she currently lives, works, and makes things.