The night it happened, there was a fight. It carried late into the evening, the blame bouncing back and forth between them—Alan wasn’t understanding enough, Vera didn’t want it enough.
And they fell asleep, each clinging to their side as far from the other as possible, wishing they had more energy to scream and cry and prove their points before succumbing to exhaustion.
Only to wake in the middle of the night at the same time. To reach in the dark toward one another and find bare skin, warm.
Their reunion was slow. Vera saw his mouth appear, then his nose, cheeks, and dark eyes. He came quietly, but with a strength she didn’t know he had, holding her still, a light tremble as she received him.
The next morning, she knew it had worked. She could hear the bustle of nature outside her window as if it were right next to her. She could smell dark roast coffee brewing in the kitchen. She could feel a dance in her belly.
* * *
The city was Alan’s idea.
“I wouldn’t have to drive to work.” He presented the notion to her breathlessly, like it was time-sensitive. His hand lay over her stomach, still flat, standing on their large, plush front lawn. The atmosphere was full of sound not made by humans, but by the wind, trees, bluebirds.
Six years of marriage, and their fertility problem was over. A family was in their future. Change would be good.
His voice continued to cut through, “And you—” with a triumphant laugh, “you wouldn’t have to work!”
Vera wriggled her toes and felt overgrown grass between them. She wondered where his worry and anger toward her had gone—his fear that she didn’t want the family he did. She couldn’t remember ever successfully convincing him.
She looked down toward her middle. His hand over it, trying to feel something that didn’t have limbs yet. “What’s wrong with me working?” She squinted up at his face, the sun beaming intensely behind him.
His hand dropped to his side, “Um, nothing. I’m just saying you wouldn’t have to.”
* * *
Vera lost her virginity when she was sixteen years old inside her first car, a 1993 red Volvo 240. The boy was tall, experimenting with his facial hair, and must have been named Mark or Max.
Their movements were slow and minimal, just enough. The backseat was boxy and solid, dependable during their confusion of discovery.
Afterward, M said, “That was great,” and walked home—he lived down the street.
And Vera—after she threw her car keys under the front seat, locked all the doors, and closed them, one by one—walked home too.
When she got home, she told her father that she had been in a terrible accident and that, while she was okay, the car was not, and she wouldn’t be able to drive it again.
Her father nodded, and walked toward her with his heavy gait, assessing his daughter, bruise-free. “Was there anybody with you, Vera?” He lifted her right arm, then her left, turning each over in his rough hands, checking her face for winces.
“Well?” He asked, his voice a low, gruff tenor. His eyes wandered everywhere over and around her. Vera knew she could safely assess his face without fear of his eyes ever meeting hers.
“Yes.” She swallowed. “One.”
“And they’re okay?”
She winced again. “It was a terrible accident.”
Vera’s father sighed, nodded. He gripped her elbow with a chapped hand, led her to his car, and instructed her to tell him where the totaled car sat.
She obeyed and directed him through the few blocks it took, and when he saw the Volvo in perfect condition on the side of the road, he pulled up behind it. Headlights shining, he left his daughter in the idling car as he removed a metal bat from the backseat, walked over to the red wagon, and smashed all the windows in. He beat the hood, doors, and roof in, too, and then got back into the driver’s seat of his car.
Vera’s chest throbbed. Her eyes grew warm and moist.
Her father turned to her, “You need to learn which things to lie about,” he said, “now let’s go get you the pill.”
Ashley Czajkowski is a photography-based artist working in a number of interdisciplinary methods including printmaking, video and installation. Driven by her own experience, she explores social constructions related to childhood, femininity, and the psychological manifestation of the human-animal.
Czajkowski evokes methods of symbolism and storytelling to explore these themes in her work. Czajkowski earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in photography in 2009 from Emporia State University in Kansas and received her Master’s of Fine Arts in photography in 2015 from Arizona State University. She currently resides in Tempe, Arizona where she continues to make work, teach photography courses, and is the Assistant Curator of Tilt Gallery.
See more of her work at www.ashleyczajkowski.com.
Kelsey Pinckney lives in Phoenix, Arizona where she serves as the Assistant Director of Four Chambers Press and is consistently amazed by the wonderfully talented writers and artists she gets to keep company with.