Leavetaking by Maria Picone
I can’t just tell you goodbye and walk away, can I? It’s a foggy day with a lot of doubts about
what it wants to be. I pick up grocery store roses on my way home.
Walking to the car, I realize you’ll know if I present you with a significant act. You saw me
when I had to fire our landscaper, the obvious statements circling like hawks that don’t dare to
The girl on the street outside the strip mall receives the flowers with both arms outstretched and holds them wrong, pointing the heads downward, twelve drops of blood on a white miniskirt. In the eighth grade, I had to dispatch my then-girlfriend Alicia, thanking her for services rendered with her sweaty, gummy bear-scented palms. It took months to say goodbye, first the red ones, then the green, until we came to the pineapple ending.
At the red light, I start to text you but get stuck on the first word. For a sec, I’m in the 6th grade
again failing my geography class. All I can think of saying is, honey, I’m being deployed with the goofiest smile on my face. The kind you get when you know you failed your report but you’re trying to save face with the popular kids. Crying Jenny had to use the computer won’t hack it. We learn everything useful at school if we pay attention.
I want to ramble on: sweetie, the military doesn’t have a body so they suck the youth out of us; they prey on the undecided, the guys who went through high school with one hand in their
pocket texting and played poker during science class. They stamp ‘em with the tramp stamp of the gen-yoo-wine United States of America just in case anyone from the wrong side of the world can’t tell where you’re from. Then they slap a gun in your hand and a grenade in your pocket and send you off. Now my friends got the good times, the sepia photos tinged with cheap vodka stains we thought went out of fashion in ‘Nam. But I got the shit stick, The Duty. If you want certainty, well, they don't know when I’m going and they don’t know when I’m coming back. Not like I could tell you—
Ignition off. I walk forward now, head down. I open the bright blue door with its handmade
wreath. We don’t have kids but I’m convinced we will because of the care you took with those
dead vines—the way you entwined them together, braiding a whole. I watched you make this
alchemy with your hands and I knew your womb, your most secure facility, could not help but be held that way. I put my hands in my pockets to conceal my sweating palms.
When I see you, it’s like revelation. You brush the blond hair from your shoulders and wait.
I go down on one knee, like I’m proposing. “It’s happened,” I say.
“When?” You draw me up to my feet, so I can stand tall with you by my side. A beat and you get it. “They didn't tell you.”
“No,” I say. All the complaints sweep across my face like an interpolation. It must always start
with, sweetie. You wipe the tears from my eyes before they fall. We hold each other underneath the hand-worked wreath and the mist becomes a little clearer.
Maria S. Picone has an MFA from Goddard College. An adoptee, she hails from New England by way of South Korea. She loves cats, noodles, and oil painting. Her fiction appears in Monday Night Lit, talking about strawberries all of the time, and Progenitor Art and Literary Journal. Her Twitter is @mspicone, and her website is mariaspicone.com.