Hooping by Bailey Merlin

When we lie side-by-side in an afterglow, he says,
I used to be a man of my word. Neither of us wants
to label his intentions, fearful of finding the meaning
in definition. Our fingers come together, interwoven
like the white, fraying threads of our patched-up quilt
we bought on the side of a highway in New Mexico
where a girl was swishing a hula hoop on the points
of her hips as she danced like an accident in progress.
My hand settles on the wall, sliding down peeling paper
and strip away a large piece for my prize, only to reveal
pea green patina as I ask if he remembers her, not brave
enough to look him in the eyes while I cradle the brittle
bit in the palm of my hand as it curls inwards, protective
of itself, wary of sharing too much. When he speaks, it is
a wistful sigh that sneaks from his lips, both bite-bruised,
then confesses to the lasso of her honey hair that caught
him hard enough to repaper our bedroom in butterscotch.
The evidence of his affection resting in my own red hands;
I should be angry, but I used to be made of my word, too.

Bailey Merlin
Bailey Merlin holds an MFA in fiction from Butler University. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Into the Void, Crack the Spine, Not Your Mother’s Breast Milk, The Indianapolis Review, among others. She lives and writes in Boston, MA with 2 dogs, 2 cats, and 9-12 people (depending on the day). Find more of her work at baileymerlin.com.

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