In the Teahouse, Sundown
You can’t remember what kind of tea you were drinking the first time you saw photographs of a dead body discovered. Just that it wasn’t caffeinated and that what shone on your computer screen was a body without lights. A desert with no view of sky. Like someone gave you a wide-open horizon but cut off all possibility. If you had to guess, you probably ordered peppermint or sunset lavender that night, something herbal at your Townshend’s table. Something herbal and relaxing that could help you keep your breath, not lose it in jitters, leaving your body full thrum in the middle of the night with a mind that couldn’t stop its marathon.
In these murder cases, you sometimes think, the only certainty is that someone is gone. No matter who did the doing, and who did the dying, someone is no longer around.
But you still did lose it, your breath. Lost like your childhood kitten without a collar who your across-the-street neighbor saw picked up by a strange woman during a lightning storm. This time, however, you don’t have the hope that your little rascal wound up in a good home.
You were twenty-four, and fifteen months fresh from college. Paralegals who work in indigent criminal defense don’t earn much, but even with a salary and benefits, would you have known how to act?
You tilted your screen downward for a minute in silence. And maybe you didn’t pray in a Jesus kind of way, but you prayed hard, throwing your thoughts to a soul if it still existed. To a system that just doesn’t seem to know how to act toward the dead or the accused. To a body now earth or ash.
Whatever the flavor, your tea sat cold in a mug made of glass.
Reece Gritzmacher is a nonbinary writer from Portland, Oregon. Their poetry has been honored with an Academy of American Poets Prize, and their prose has appeared on KNAU and genderqueer.me (some publications under a former first name). Currently an MFA candidate at Northern Arizona University, they are investigating the intersections of settler colonialism, queerness, and a missing creek. They are the nonfiction editor of Thin Air Magazine.