Along the Perimeter

Along the Perimeter

Kristin Kozlowski

Her backyard is filled with plastic bottle tops and torn ad papers and Skittles wrappers ripped open and emptied. An Election Day leaflet. A peanut butter jar chewed clean through on one end by a suburban squirrel. Didn’t anyone ever describe the dangers of eating plastic to them? Do forest dwelling squirrels know the difference between real food and fake, or are they so ravenous they’d peel through plastic to chow on some peanut butter, too? Maybe this kind of destruction is primal. Like the anger that erupts from her sometimes. Or the pain that often overtakes her and makes her a visitor in her visceral body.

She picks up a hand towel she’s never seen before that’s lying near the fence line. It’s soaked with the regrets of winter and maybe some melted snow or early morning rain. It’s hard to tell the difference. She doesn’t bother to wring it out, just dumps it into the garbage bag she’s carrying, the one that thumps against her calf when she walks the perimeter. It’s filling quickly.

Her daughter’s old doll stroller rests, faded and tipped over, near the gate. It has a rip in the cotton sling and a broken wheel. Too big for the bag, she deposits it at the curb. From the street behind her, she can hear the garbage truck rumbling, then screeching to a halt. It sounds exhausted. She speeds up her efforts, anxious to get this junk off of her lawn and out of her sight.

Beneath a cracked Frisbee is a crescent of new grass, green against the dead yellow tan of the yard. She tisks at it. Doesn’t it know that it can frost in Chicago as late as Mother’s Day? Doesn’t it know that it should still be hiding? Or doesn’t it care about the Mother’s Day rule? Either way, she thinks this grass should bunker down and hide its head for six more weeks if it knows what’s good for it. If it cares about surviving at all. If it can. She crouches and strokes the soft, damp threads with her fingers. She thinks that this is what vulnerability must feel like, and she wonders if that’s primal too.

Kristin Kozlowski

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