She didn’t so much knock as scratch at the door. Might not have heard her had I not seen her pull up outside, two wheels crookedly over the curb. I opened the door only as far as the chain would allow. She reeked. Had been drunk recently but not presently. She held a steak, no doubt stolen from her work in the not recent past, almost wrapped in a stained paper towel. There was a shining need in her eyes that used to be for me. I opened the door and let her in.
We left her jacket and meat on the floor and shuffled toward the bathroom. She wanted me to undress her, to clean her, to anoint her with oils I never had. As the tub filled with scalding water and slippery bubbles, I pushed the shirt off her shoulders. There was a scrape on her lower neck that had been hidden by the collar.
“Who did this to you?” I asked.
She watched me sitting on the toilet, unsnapping and opening her filthy jeans. “Every mark on me is yours”, she said.
There are some mistakes that can be fixed, or at least forgiven. Wounds that can heal leaving nothing but a stain or a scar. Others though, remain open-seeping-to be carried or offered up every day, beyond lifetimes. I held her hand as she stepped carefully into the tub and put a towel behind her head when she lay back.
“You won’t leave me in here alone, will you?”
“I’ll leave the door open.”
“Stay. Please.” She was squeezing my hand.
There was an angry bruise on her left breast-just above the nipple. I wouldn’t ask where that one came from.
I already had my answer.