The Ofi Press Magazine

International Poetry and Fiction from Mexico City

Janae Green: The Exit Sign

Work by Janae Green (USA). Published in Issue 25.

     She's in the glass shattered where the pavement touches my face. There's a sound like salt crushing against my cheek that sneezes me awake. If I had landed where the rain meets the sewer drain I think I might see pennies. On my lips is a copper-mouth taste.

            We sat under the tarp in plastic seats because the cushioned chairs were taken. We had the heating fan and it was warm next to her and she and he with smoke between lips and fingers. I just held a cigarette dead in my hand because I like to sit in the slew of laughter and drinks and legs on legs, nudges with arms and lush cheeks. It was between another she and me for the next round with family behind the sling. I say, You have the most beautiful eyes, with voka-cran breath across her face. It was in that moment that I realized her eyes were green because Italkreallyclose when I have too many drinks.

            “Any other passengers?” Asks a sideways man.

            Her face peers through the windshield glass. I press my hands against the window.

            Can you see her, too? I never ask.

            I hold hands with the walls and make purple faces. Words can't leave because the clothes you wear to funerals never fit. If I could speak, I would say: Beauty is not something you look at but you know it when you see it. But deep inside her shell-box are only her shells. As I look inside, I feel rocks shake in my skin and wonder, where is she?

            I click away my seat belt and stand. The length of my body is the height of both the driver and passenger seats.

            “She will blow up.” He waves at me. His help is cellular in his hand.

            The nights with lights are the dreams of monsters. Not other monsters, but me monsters. These are the dreams without love. I see green eyes in cardboard signs. I know some men will swallow their own skin because their bellies bleed hollow tones. In my dreams, he tells me that I can take her place if I just let go. A bus approaches when the light turns blue and the walk signal is bright green.

            “I won't give him a dollar,” I say to the FM radio, “but I can buy him a sandwich or some food.”

            Instead I will only think of this while looking at my phone because I don't want to take the EXIT sign home.

            It pours on the corner we're on but our faces are sopped from memory, not the Oregon rain. Umbrellas, jackets, arms on shoulders, roses, plastic covered poems, bare hands and wet hands and brave hands keep the candle fire from fading. The sisters, the mothers, the daughters, the women, the friends with copper-colored hair, with raven hair, immortalized in cross-walk signals and the traffic lights always turned blue, never green. The cars and buses take a break from the street.

            Sweat lathers my windshield in help-me fists. I am a mime trapped inside a car-box. It's hard crying with hands.

            He calls the sirens, big red and the blue and red but to both, he says, “I won't go near her. The car is smoking too bad.”

            The smell of burns and dishes is like patchwork on our arms. The uniform this month is black. We say where did you get yours and how much was that and i wish they would stop changing their minds the food crusted on my last one is not even aged yet and i think the woman from table 35 is calling your name. How can you tell its not you? Our names are the same.

            “Hey, it's like we're Mary-kate and Ashley!”

            This makes her laugh because it doesn't make sense.

            “I'll be the fat one,” she says.

            I climb over the steering wheel, pushing my body up through the exit: the passenger door. My car leans fetal like sleep. I come out through its belly. With a sound like pennies falling, I jump, but I know the sound is only glass.

            I watch my car sideways and I watch my car smoke.

            She gave her eyes when she died.

            There are some eyes I will never know.

 

In memory of Jenee Hammel.

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Janae Green is the poetry editor of the Salmon Creek Journal and writer for the VanCougar newspaper at Washington State University. Her poems and short stories have appeared in Poetry Quarterly, Scissors and Spackle, and various online literary journals. She lives in the Pacific Northwest.