“She always talks about after. Always comments
on the low light in the bedroom, how she can
count each ring of rib and pick out the blue pulse
at the hollow of your throat. I try to imagine what
isn’t mine: the softness of you in a bedroom that
smells like skin and her beneath you, nails in your
back like a crucifixion. I try to imagine the cocoon
of you, the possessiveness of your embrace, how

your fingers curl around her wrists like manacles.
She is slave to your passion and you are too—slave
to that untamed thing within you that croons with
wild abandon and hangs its head when you are
spent. I wonder how she can manage to keep herself

together and talk about it so normally, as if you do
not crawl into bed night after night together, feet
bound at the bases of each other’s spines like hands
praying. She doesn’t say the most obvious: that you
are beautiful, that the sight of you above her—or
below her—moving, eyes open wide and mouth

gaping is enough to shatter her. That the tilt of your
neck against the pillow and how pliable you become
beneath her hands and the little ‘o’ she leaves behind
on your shoulder with her teeth like a branding as
she comes makes her love you—impossibly, achingly—
more. It is

a love that leaves you both scraped out and hollow,
as if it has burned you clean through.”

— Kristina Haynes, “After”


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