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.
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