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Bite Your Tongue Bloody 


“She swallowed the mouse skull.

Instantly, she turned into a dragon,” 

a British man whispers in my ear, 

his voice flowing 

out of my headphones.

A boy—a stranger—saunters towards me

down the aisle. The sight of him 

draws me away from the audiobook, 

away from the girl-turned-dragon

flying towards the moon, pulling me back 

into my blue vinyl seat 

on the train bound for Oceanside. I yank out

my headphones as the boy shoves

my backpack off the seat next to me 

and plops himself down.


He grabs my hand, says he saw me smile at him

in the window. I tell him my smile was for dragons

and enchanted skulls. He says I’m playing 

hard to get and squeezes my hand. 


We’re the only ones on this train car. 

He chats me up, in Spanish. 

He says his name is Gilberto 

and he’s from El Salvador. 


He strokes my fingers as my palms pool 

with sweat. He tells me he works

at a Peruvian restaurant in Norwalk 

and that he just came back 

from vacation in Brazil 

where he fished for piranhas 

using canned chicken liver as bait. 


He grabs my arm, rough 

enough to raise a bruise, and kisses me.

He drools.

I purse my lips. 

He braids his fingers 

in my hair. I bite my tongue 

until I taste blood.

The loudspeaker announces 

that we’re nearing San Clemente—his stop. 

He grabs my phone from my pocket, 

says he won’t leave 

without giving me his number. I let him 

type it into my phone. The train stops. 

He lingers, trying for another kiss.

I turn my head—his wet lips 

land on my ear as the train’s doors begin to close.

He throws himself at the doors—squeezes

through the gap as the doors slam shut. 


The train shudders, hurtles onward.


In the window, my reflection glares at me.  

I stick out my tongue. Blood 

drips from the gash where I bit it earlier. 

I bite my tongue again, then again

and again, my mouth pooling with blood. 


I imagine spitting the blood in the boy’s face.

My spit, my blood—in his hair, on his skin, 

oozing into his eyes and into his mouth.


But I swallow the impulse, 

swallow my mouthful of blood.

I resume my audiobook, 

returning to the dragon in my head 

as blood continues to flow from my tongue,

washing away any traces still left 

of a stranger’s spit in my mouth. 


Reprinted from Rigorous Magazine

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