Kim Chinquee

Historic District

She tried to be mindful, cooking up her rice, but she found the bang above distracting. Bang, bang, bang, and she imagined a bedpost, a wall. A man in haste, that man who had followed her from the gym late at night. It was just across the street when she used to live downtown, and she still sensed the wring of his hands, felt the veil over her head, the pow pow pow of a TV show, how he'd done that and then stuffed her and then dumped her. The flow of him stayed with her, but she couldn't define his face, whether he had a long nose or a short one, whether his eyes were dark or blue. He didn't use his lips. She remembered some white teeth, but it could have been a vision, her closing her eyes and imagining snow, a wedding, her wings.

It was Saturday night and she'd seen the guy who lived above her in the courtyard with a skinny girl in sandals, her long dark hair, her dress so short and her thick cosmetics made her look like a scream.

She put in a set of earplugs. There were sets on the counter, in the drawer, on the desk, on the bookshelf, by the sofa. Sometimes she found them on the floor, in corners. She'd leave them, and suck them in the vacuum.

She simmered the rice, put the sprouts in the steamer, checked the stove. The tilapia was crisp. But she'd lost her hunger, and remembered writing in her journal something her therapist and the other people told her, to be mindful and just eat.

She tried to smell the food, but she smelled fire, hay, the place she couldn't move yet—where she also couldn't yet see, feeling the prick of the dry weed. She pictured one big flame, just stuck in the heat of it.

She looked out the window. Down two floors was the courtyard. Benches. Flowers. Trees. Big and round that had been there for centuries.

Kim Chinquee is the author of the collections Oh Baby and Pretty. She lives in Buffalo, New York.