Halo

by Jennifer Marie Donahue

CW: Assault

1. What if I told you I believe in miracles? Would you understand on the day I survived (died), a part of me escaped to the stars and pulled the dark sky across my body like a blanket? Would you understand if I told you this with a flippant tone, as if telling an old joke, while drinking coffee grown cold in the mug and chain-smoking Parliaments, lighting one off the dying ash of another?

2. I mouthed “help me” out the window, but no one in the cars zooming by could read my lips. Some people waved back as if I were playing a traveling game. Find a red car, a license plate from a state that starts with “M,” a punch buggy, or wave to the girl with the black eye whose blank face is pressed against the window.

3. In “How to Escape from a Moving Car,” stuntman to the stars Adam Kirly advises to “assess how fast you’re going—you’ll instinctively know if the speed is suitable or not.” I knew that day, hand on door handle, that I had never possessed the skill of assessing how fast a thing traveled while in motion. Even myself. A more complicated equation: assessing the speed of reaction. The knife sat balanced on the lap of a man I once loved.

4. Charles Lefourneau in his 1878 text defined emotions as “passions of a short duration.”

5. I had a friend who once professed “cold is just a feeling.” When he said it, I whispered so no one could hear, “just like love.”

6. I don’t smoke cigarettes anymore but I have dreams where I am. I wake with that dried out feeling on my tongue and the smell thick, clogging my nose. There is a heat to having that ember, even in a dream, burning bright and hot near my mouth. And a longing, still, all these years later.

7. In April, the star cluster known as Pleiades or the Seven Sisters sets in the evening, drifting into a summer of invisibility. To cultures around the world in the northern hemisphere, this disappearance marks the time to plant or set sail.

8. A police siren sounded far away, but when I looked to the side mirror I saw bright headlight eyes close behind. The car lurched across the road. Tires went from smooth pavement to the pitted gravel of the shoulder. The car stopped. Now! The Door! Run! my brain screamed, but my body wouldn’t obey. I curled my legs up to my chest, hugged my arms around them and buried my head into my knees. When the man—so different from the boy who’d charmed me with a quick wit and a deep laugh years before—stepped out of the car, he left the door wide open. The cool evening air breathed on my skin.

9. Scientists call Pleiades the M65.

10. “Miss,” a voice whispered. A hand touched my shoulder. A weak sound slipped out of me, a delayed scream, and it sounded like dying. When I left the car, I looked up. Here, in the middle of nowhere, where my former love had planned to kill me, there were no man-made lights to block the constellations. The tenebrous sky furled out vast and heavy, the stars hanging like shiny adornments. Everything spun together in a way that felt stintless.

11. The Seven Sisters were placed in the sky to keep them safe from Orion. He was obsessed with them, a stalker, relentlessly pursuing these women. Safety was only possible by placing them out of reach.

12. There were no provisions for the Seven Sisters to come back.

13. In the police station, I remember the blinding flash of the camera, the spots it left in my eyes, how dark the room was in the absence of that pop of light. There were bodies all around me but none had faces. It had been hours since the assault, bruises bloomed on my back where I had struck the bookshelves, hand and finger marks appeared around my throat and on my arms where I had been held down on the bed.

14. My tongue was too large for my mouth somehow and the words were strange, like false teeth, like gum that seals everything together. Still, I answered the questions. I could almost see myself from above. I used to lie on my bedroom floor as a teenager and try to astrally project myself. Now, I possessed that power born of blood.

15. What was I wearing? They asked me at the trial. Do I recall the exact color of sweatpants or underwear? Would it have made a difference? Maybe the shade of my underwear sang a siren song I could not hear. Those clothes were taken from me at the hospital, sealed in a plastic bag marked “evidence.” There might still be a part of my soul in a locker somewhere. Preserved. A part of a dead thing. When I try to conjure the way the cotton felt against my skin, I sink beyond the surface of a deep pool. Space is frigid. All I can see and feel is the halo of light after a camera flash, a spinning sky with stars that look like girls, a blanket of darkness, a long exhale of smoke, and a miracle: dead but still somehow breathing.

Jennifer Marie Donahue’s writing appears or is forthcoming in Catapult, Flyway, JMWW, Grist Journal, The Rumpus, Yalobusha Review and other fine places. She lives in Massachusetts. You can find her online at www.jmdonahue.com.

Artwork by: Lily Dasinger

Lily Dasinger is a writer and artist who lives near an actual garden, where she likes to feed the crows. She gains inspiration from reality and otherwise for her photographs. She has been taking pictures since she was eight years old.