Because I often slept in the barn, I got used to the way straw felt on my face. The straw, its smell, the way it poked my cheeks at night, was soothing, it helped me sleep. The days got long and the nights after were longer.
That summer felt endless leading up to the accident. I would spend long afternoons, when there were no other chores, sweeping out all the stalls. This was the most soothing chore possible to me on the farm despite the heat, and the amount of sweat that rolled off my skin and soaked into my clothing. I usually had to take off my shirt because otherwise it would stink so bad I’d have to wash it over and over to get the smell out.
It was there when I would dream of John, of his body, of him holding me. I would imagine his eyes traveling over every part of me, his hand reaching to brush against my belly. I would hold the broom and inhale it like I was smelling him, the way he always smelled like dirt after a rainstorm and a wet horse.
I would stand and let my body lean against the hot wood of the empty stalls, holding the broom between my hands like a prayer, like a rosary. I would hold the broom and feel funny, the same way some of the drawings of Jesus made my face feel hot and my cock stir in my pants. The broom became something more, the broom wasn’t john, the broom wasn’t a broom, it was endowed with life and it was the only thing that gave me life.
I started to regard it as something sacred, secret, something that couldn’t be tainted or taken away from me. This was only one of the many things I used to keep myself alive. When I could barely walk after a beating, when I couldn’t make it out to the river in the day to be alone; I would lie in the barn and hold the broom. Up high in the loft with the straw pressing against my cheeks, breathing in John, imagining naked Jesus and sometimes touching myself.
Sometimes I wonder what your secrets are. I never wonder if you have secrets because I know we all have secrets. But I wonder what yours are. I want to tell you one of mine. That everyday I think of you. That we never really speak but every day I want to say more to you than what is being said. I am lonely. I have only my parents and Rowan. We work together in the fields but this is not enough time to have with you. I have figured out other ways to have you. But I still want the you I can’t have. I cannot explain the kind of want I have for you. It is best it is not explained.
This is just one of my secrets.
My affliction is that I am a woman. This is why he can’t love me the way I want him to love me. He has never told me this, never shaped his mouth around the words, but I knew them. I knew them not because, through the years of being his only friend I had begun to know him better than anyone else knew him, I knew this about him because I could travel inside his thoughts.
This might seem like crazy talk, I might seem not right in the head. But it’s true, I’ve always done this. When I was an infant I started to talk long before the other babies did. It was because I heard my mother speaking, all the time, even when her lips weren’t moving, when there was no sound coming out. She would stare me in the eyes and I could hear her voice speaking to me, sometimes singing to me. My family was quiet, but I always heard her. That never went away, only grew stronger, even after she grew sick those many winters ago and died. I still heard the voices of other people, or I suppose I just heard their thoughts.
That went on for awhile and then I started to see things. I would close my eyes and I could see the next afternoon in a bright flash. At first I retained nothing of these visions until the events occurred and then I’d realize what I’d seen in my head the day before. I’d realize what I was capable of. I’ve started to become much more aware when the visions happen, I try absorb and record the details, the flashing glimpses.
I am in love with him. It isn’t fair that I love a boy who can never love me and that I have to watch him suffer day after day and can do nothing. I remember when the visions started that summer. How they grew into intensity leading up to the accident. I tried to talk to him about it but he always grew angry for some reason. Trying to convince me that what I was seeing wasn’t real.
“your head has always been so full of fantasy, you never shoulda learned to read, it’s all those stories that plant seeds in your brain.”
Rose Inside Timothy
I go to his closet everyday when both he and Ma would be out working the fields. I rifle through all the piles of old newspapers to find the box for the colt 45. I hold it in my hand and breathe.
That is all I do, just hold the gun, everyday. I can’t remember now how long it has been since I ended up here. I hold the gun and I try to count back the minutes, hours, days to the moment I woke up in that cold bedroom in this strange place. I hold the gun and breathe and try to imagine loading it with bullets.
I try to imagine holding the gun to my temple, and I imagine the sound of the gun going off that close to my ear. Every day I do this, I go through the steps of shooting myself in the head. I try to imagine my hips; I try to imagine the smoothness of my skin but all I can feel is this boy’s flank.
I can feel his cock in my pants; I can feel his sores all over my body. I close my eyes and I hold the gun and I breathe. I need to find something to save myself. To fill the emptiness but I can’t think of anything. I want to be fucked by a man, to have him hold me the way my husband held me; his breath on the back of my head, stirring the tangles of my hair. So I go find John who is alone mucking the corral on a windy day, the clouds are grey and swirly and it feels like a storm I coming.
He looks up at me as I crawl over the wooden gate. Hey Tim, he calls out to me and I call back to him. What’s up, John says as he leans an elbow against his rake. I can see beads of sweat collecting in the divot of his neck tendons and I feel my cock stiffen. I wonder now how the boy felt about John. I walk up to him; I take my hand and let it rest gently on the crotch of his pants. He is quiet. He is looking me in the eyes. I feel him getting hard.
Georgia Van Gunten is a writer and visual artist living in Santa Fe, NM. She graduated with a BA from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics with Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Her publications include Bombay Gin Literary Journal, Gesture Literary Magazine, and the Jack Kerouac Soundcast, as well as numerous self publications. Her work is also found online at poeticinvestigation.blogspot.com
Author’s note: Timothy and Rose are two people who exist in different eras. A traumatic incident happens to each of them separately, and these two accidents leave both of them in comas. When they wake up, each in their own time period, they have swapped bodies. This means that Rose, a mother from the year 2012, is suddenly living inside Timothy, a brutalized farm-boy in the 1950’s. The story works around each of their experiences during this time, and eventually explains how this happened.