One Hundred Reasons by Gina Bernard

I sat behind you in human sexuality class, the curled ridge of your ear exposed. If I had touched my finger to your skin, would you have felt my pulse there?

We next met at the cafeteria sundae bar and talked so long your ice-cream melted. It ran down the glass and dripped into a chocolate pool on the floor; you licked your hand as you asked me what events I swam. I spluttered as if drowning.

I spent weeks teaching myself calligraphy, and composed one-hundred reasons you should go out with me. A friend hand delivered it, and you called – our connection crackling with energy.

On our first date, I picked you up in my roommate’s car, too embarrassed to admit mine had Plexiglass windows and a door bungeed to the steering column. You smelled of spring lilacs fresh from the rain. We ate Chinese in a converted car dealership, snarling lions poised on the concrete beneath No Reasonable Offer Refused. Our tea grew cold and eventually an old woman with a vacuum cleaner took back our fortune cookies and growled, “Please go now!”

Later that May, when you descended the steps of my basement apartment and pushed me onto the bed, I knew I’d never again see anything as graceful as your shoulders as you reached to unhook your bra.

I spent the next seventeen years erasing myself – fading ink on our leaves.

The list is now an anthology checked out decades ago; one I’ve dog-eared, jotting unread fragments in the margins along its broken spine: she is a child of the moon, limned bright on black felt fantasia; she plummets each night into this stoked regret, raining culm and ember into my cadaverous darkness; her signing hands are waxwings thrashing from winter juniper; I whisper her name to hear its vowels—a vale of enunciated sorrow.

It’s not that this collection is so long overdue. I’m certain if returned, it will no longer be accepted. I’ve defaced too many of its pages.

Gina Marie Bernard is a heavily tattooed transgender woman, retired roller derby vixen, and full-time English teacher. She lives in Bemidji, Minnesota. Her chapbook Naked, Gettin’ Nuder was a 2018-2019 Glass Chapbook series finalist, and has been accepted for publication by Clare Songbirds Publishing. Her work has recently appeared in r.kv.r.y quarterly, The Hunger Journal, Waccamaw Journal, Rat’s Ass Review, and Jet Fuel Review.