BY BRIAN OLIU
Come in close and I will teach you a lesson. You will fall down. They will swing-shoulder to arm to hand, and it will strike you on the cheek. Your neck will spin backwards like the woman’s hair in the second row. Get up. They will blink. Their eye might sparkle. They might open their mouth. They might flicker once-their body will disappear and reset, ready to cause damage. If you jump high enough you can hit them in the chin. Punch until you turn pink. You are medicine. You are without heart. When you get older, you will punch less. You thought you were still a teenager. When you get older, you will see all of this coming-the wind up, the drop of the left before the right enters your body, the face, always the face. I am a beautiful fighter. I have such a style. I will picture my fist breaking through the back of your skull. I will have hair on my arm. I want to touch the space behind where you stand. Tell me you understand what this means. Tell me that there is something to this. I have my weakness but I will not tell you. Someone threw a piece of candy into the ring. Someone had his nose broken. This man has been looking forward to this for months. After you lose, we’ll drink to your health. The boy with a broken jaw has a broken jaw. This is what he’ll tell his mother: he’ll say that he forgot something. I am sorry you have to see me like this. Thank you for seeing me like this-I didn’t mean to be a bother-thank you for seeing me. Think of the time where I walked you to the train. Think of how poorly the visit went, my knuckles clumsy. I do not remember where I slept. I think you’re going to have a nightmare tonight. Someone beautiful and small wants nothing to do with you. Someone beautiful and small wants everything to do with you. Someone beautiful and small wants to kill you, to punch their way through your stomach, to walk away, retire. I am tired of talking about these things. In the morning, after dropping you off, men staggered into the courtyard and wanted to fight me. Their threats started in a language that was not my own, and graduated into words that I could parcel out, words that would cause me to leave a man bloodied. They tried to kick me, and I laughed: a fist is the same in any language, whether you are making, throwing, or giving it to someone. I would say that I ran back home without you as the sun rose, but it was still dark by the time I crawled into my bed. I hid my hand underneath the pillow to cool it down from the heat caused by swinging it around like a king, like a champion. It is not because I didn’t want to look at the hand that formed the fist that hurt the man. I am proud of this, you know. I made someone I had never met understand. I would’ve punched myself out. I would’ve turned purple. I ruined your night, and it is beautiful. The first one, definitely, was beautiful. The second, definitely, was not. It was as sloppy as my tongue attempting words to get you to leave. I did not know the word for stop. I did not know the word for leave me alone, I have left a girl who will never love me at a train station so she may catch an early flight back to hands that will hold her and ears that will smile when she mentions how strange everything was. It was a beautiful country, she will tell them, and they’ll nod. She will show them pictures and I will not be in any of them. They will ask why she went and she will not be able to explain anything further than a name. She will not be able to explain in any language why we will never talk again. I did not know the words for this, so I broke your fucking nose. I yell that I broke your fucking nose, in my words, not yours. I do not bother with your language. My punch is soft like your heart. I’ll be trash and I’ll be scum, but I’ll be angelic trash and scum. When I woke up in the afternoon, my pillow was red. My sheets, too, were red. I threw them in my suitcase and rolled it across cobblestone to the laundromat. When I opened the gates no one was waiting for me. I poured the powdered soap into the machine. I would say I watched the fabric spin and my blood disappear, but I read a book. I would say I watched the fabric spin and you disappear, your scent, your hair, but I thumbed at the scrapes on my hand instead-my blood had turned to paper.