Charlie Manson

by Kyle Hemmings


I once dated a girl named Charlie Manson. In the early days, we walked along glistening beaches, holding hands, or me, holding my tongue, too afraid to speak, to ruin what hadn't yet begun. Her eyes were all about swept away, swept away, that sideways longing. Overhead, a seagull's wings melted into the sun. We listened to the splash. It was the way my mother died. Charlie told me that birds such as the one that chose drop instead of flight are more common than we think. 

Squinting at the sun, she said that when someone can't forgive you, then you become that person. It was the sun that couldn't forgive that seagull. 

We spent weeks wasted on bubblegum or leaving footprints in the park after ten. We necked and felt each other's broken teeth. We listened to Black Flag and bought Petticon's ink drawings of victims. Then she admitted it. She had a collection of glass bottles in which she kept the voice of every lover who ever rejected her. She flung the bottles from rooftops or into the sea. It helped to clear her head, she said, to stay clean. 

Come clean with me, she said, making her eyes small and dirty peep-hole glass. 

Then it was my turn. I left and didn't return her voice messages. Alone, I awoke to the new morning, the sun in stitches. In the mirror, I was glass-eyed and cracked. I wouldn't speak for years.