Everything That Falls into the Explanatory Gap | Kristina Moriconi

What happens inside this high school classroom is the one thing she promises never to write about. 

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Through the open window of the classroom, she hears children playing
on the playground across the street. 

Laughing. 

Shouting. 

She hears the bounce of a ball on concrete.

thump  <ring>  thump  <ring>  thump  <ring>  thump  <ring>

What happens inside this high school classroom
is the one thing she promises never to write about. 

Never to say. 

[she’s never been good at keeping promises]

To give words to what happens inside this classroom
might mean she’d have to inhabit that body again.

That body.  

Sixteen. 

Blue uniform skirt hung on sharp-angled hip bones.

White blouse tucked, buttoned
over clavicle & ribs, protruding & countable.

Through the open window of the classroom, she hears children playing
on the playground across the street. 

Laughing. 

Shouting. 

She hears the bounce of a ball on concrete.

thump  <ring>  thump  <ring>  thump  <ring>  

It’ll take years for her to understand why that image, that sound,
of kids playing on the playground will make her feel so sad. 

thump  <ring>  thump  <ring>

That sound will remind her of loss. 

thump  <ring> 

Of something taken from her.

[somewhere, she reads: Sound is like touch at a distance

[of course, that resonates] 

“misophonia,” from the Greek “misos,” means hate, & “phónè,” means voice

literally hatred of sound

The clock beats.

Her heart ticks.

She cannot listen to the arias of opera either.
They, too, take her back to that room. 

The bass-baritone of his voice hovering between the F
at the bottom of the bass clef & the F sharp above middle C. 

& the language itself, with its approximants
& nasals & sibilants. The words
with their stressed & unstressed syllables. 

Think about the way the R rolls from the tongue. 

carrrra rrrragazza (dear girl)

 

How that trill is one she hears, again & again, 

coming from the cage of his mouth. 

She is afraid to move. To speak. 

[she is elsewhere, someplace other than her body]

Consider for a moment how our brains couple sound
with emotional information, bundle & store it,

even if we want to forget,

the amygdala in the front of the brain
linking fear with sound memory. 

thump  <ring>  thump  <ring>  

carrrra rrrragazza

thump  <ring>  

The slap-clack of Italian leather soles on the vinyl floor. 

Waves of air drift, reach the eardrum,
brush against its small bones,
shivering through them like wind through trees. 

Consider, too, how the intensity of sound is measured in decibels (dB)

& near total silence registers at 0 dB & a whisper at 15 dB

& a normal conversation at 60 dB

& the loudest (verified) human scream at 129 dB.

[129 decibels catch in the back of her throat, stay there]

Protection is a myth. 

No one thinks about what sits behind the desk, waits in the classroom, the office,
in the guise of teacher, guidance counselor.  

Until it’s too late.

[129 decibels catch in the back of her throat, stay there]

Her body houses secrets now,
close-windowed,

thresholds no one can cross. 

It doesn’t matter;
beyond her imaginary boundaries, shadows take shape.

In the middle of suburbia. The neighborhood. The sprawl. 

Longstanding, the mistaken notion of safety. 

No one thinks about what waits fourteen-feet outside
that same high school building,
beneath the flickering lights of its parking lot on an ordinary night. 

Another man, a stranger, who asks for the time.

Before he stops it. 

Seconds. 

Minutes.

Before he turns a single moment into a never-ending loop.

Before he puts a knife blade to her friend’s neck 

[129 decibels catch in the back of her throat, stay there]

& moonlight is trapped in metal
& he presses the sharp edge to her skin.

Tensile strength: The resistance of a material to breaking under tension.

Steel, stainless : Tensile strength = 860 MPa (measured in megapascals)

Skin, human: Tensile strength = 20 MPa (measured in megapascals)

The language of stress
& durability. Force.

She watches as he pushes her friend against the side of her car.

[she stands there, five feet away, does nothing] 

She doesn’t react how she thinks she will. 

[as though she’d ever imagined needing to react at all] 

[to consider, split-second, scissors inside her backpack]

[the idea of where on a body to plunge them deepest] 

[where there’d be the least obstruction from bone]

Metal again. Twin blades.

Bone, human limb: Tensile strength = 130 MPa (measured in megapascals)

Everywhere, there are edges & angles, 

hard, flat surfaces made of concrete, stone. 

In this way, she begins to perceive the world: 

structure:     interconnected elements:     in the absence of beauty.

Parking lots are subjected to heavier loads than floors
but those loads are mostly static (or low speed)

so flatness & smoothness are not as critical as for streets & highways. 

The language of traction & mass. Compressive strength.

[129 decibels catch in the back of her throat, stay there]

Her friend cries. 

He is on top of her. Concrete is beneath.

[she has to do something]

She backs away, slowly, feels the weight of her legs,
hears each footstrike against the ground. 

slap  <slap>  slap  <slap>  slap  <slap>  slap  <slap>

In an instant, his words cut through everything: If you run, I’ll kill her. 

But she is already running—has run—ran—

slap  <slap>  slap  <slap>  slap  <slap>  

& there are four steps down that lead to a cafeteria

slap  <slap>  

It’s too late; she is already falling—has fallen—fell—
she lands at the bottom. 

[her face smacks up against the metal door]

Metal again. Human skin & bone. 

Blood from her nose & mouth
mixes with the words she finally screams:

He. Is. Raping. Her. 

Her body drops to the floor. 

Ceramic tile: Tensile strength = 1100 MPa (measured in megapascals)

When she opens her eyes,
she sees the shiny metal legs of plastic chairs, tables.

A bright, fluorescent room, sideways. 

 

A man in a suit keeps asking if she wants to sit up. 

[eventually, she does] 

The blood on her face feels warm, sticky. 

Both her knees are scraped & blood has dripped down her shins. 

[she picks small bits of stone from her abraded skin]

Parking lots consist of slabs, joints, curbs,
light poles & drainage facilities

—all of these working together—

elements of compressive strength. 

Outside, yellow tape is draped around the periphery. 

Crime scene. 

A police officer escorts her to a car, its lights flashing
& she sits in the backseat beside her friend. 

[her knees scrape against the plastic divider]

Inside the police station,
they are taken into separate rooms. 

She is wearing her school uniform: white blouse, blue skirt.
She feels the metal chair, cold on the back of her bare legs. 

Metal again. 

& half-glass walls in between the rooms.

Glass: Tensile strength = 33 MPa (measured in megapascals)

The strength of a particular type of glass
depends on the bonds between the molecules.

The language of clarity
& refraction. Viscosity.

At some point, both of their mothers arrive. 

She remembers the expressionless looks on their faces. 

Maybe their fathers are there, too.

Or maybe they stay home. 

Perhaps it is too much for a father
to know that he cannot protect his daughter. 

She can see her friend & her mother through the glass. 

They aren’t looking at each other or speaking. 

Her own mother is quiet as well. 

The silence makes her feel like somehow this is their fault. Her friend’s fault.

It is impossible to know then, but she will never forget this feeling. 


[she will carry it in her muscles & bones]

[it will pump like blood through her arteries & veins]

From this encounter & the one before it—

& the accumulation of those yet unknown, those yet to befall— 

she’ll be acutely aware of the burden of responsibility for her woman-body:

the hindrance of hips & legs & breasts,
of bare shoulders & long hair.

[she will always be convinced she’s to blame]

Hair, human: Tensile strength = 10 MPa (measured in megapascals)

Her life now a chorus of redemption songs.
She’ll hum a tune
each time the world spins her into a small, fragile thing. 

There are no words.
Just what happens in the throat, in the carrying of sound.  

The forced exhale.

In another room, another police officer
shows her separate sketches of facial elements

—eyes and noses and mouths—

& she is asked to choose one of each to make up a face. 

To make up a man. 

A rapist. 

A monster. 

Close-set eyes. 
Wide nose. 

 

[but she can’t remember his mouth] 

[she picks the saddest one]

It doesn’t matter;
they will never find him & he’ll never be held accountable. 

& it could happen again. & again.

[somewhere, she reads: encounters with coyotes
& mountain lions are feared most by humans]

[aliens are a close third]

She fears men. 

Or maybe she mistrusts them.
Maybe they’ve disappointed her too many times.

Or: D) all of the above.

It doesn’t matter;
bass-baritone-Italian-leather-soles will never be found out.

Or maybe he will
& he’ll be moved to another school.

Either way, it’s too late.

Her body houses shame now,
walled-off,

          collapsing inward—has collapsed inward—
& from this encounter & the one after it—

 

 

 

 

          & the accumulation of those yet unknown, those yet to befall—
it will remain collapsible,

 

in a permanent state of collapse. 

Years later, men will ask for her love, her trust. 

Love, she’ll tell them, is how you dress up a lie

And yet,
she’ll try it on, wear it. 

Twice.

One: she knows early on it won’t be until death do they part. 

Some things aren’t meant to last.
Love, she reminds herself, is one of them.

But love will be made in those four years
& it will carry on: 

Two daughters, born twenty-two months apart. 

She carries them both through the noise

—five-piece drum kit in the basement of a small house—

the shudder of bass, the crash of snare. 


But she worries that it will lodge itself
inside their still-growing bodies, steal their balance, their resolve. 

Their sleep.

[she tries to hush their cries]

[she gives them everything they need] 

She promises to find a place for them
where the world doesn’t rattle & clang.

But that, too, is a lie,

a long thread unraveling.

[she comes unstitched] 

Along the same frayed edge, finally,
when they are old enough,
she folds & presses the truth:

Here is what happened to me…

Her words are wings. 

Her voice is almost beautiful. Almost birdsong.

& she plays for them the refrain: thump  <ring>  slap

thump  <ring>  slap

thump  <ring>  slap

Two: she knows early on it won’t be easy.

Second marriage: formed by the fracture of something else.

Two lifetimes lived before,
shaped separately by layers stacking up,
                                                                                 striating,                  then splitting off.

 

Two families _____________________________________ 
          (insert word here for the opposite of blending).

 

Too much built on not enough.

Too many lies: of commission, of omission (either way, a lie is a lie.)

Two betrayals,
each looking for somewhere

—someone—

to quiet the storm.

To her, the idea of trust
seems as ill-fated
as wearing a pair of rain boots into a fast-moving river,

how in a flash they’ll fill up,
pull her under instead of protecting her feet.

[she feels her mind working loose, knot-by-knot] 

[she untangles her body limb-by-limb]

Where once they’d been held together,
after nearly twenty years,
she speaks up, tears everything down. 

She wants to make simpler what lies ahead, what remains,

offer to her pocket-watched days
hands wound with purpose this time. 

She has already given too much away,
already lived too long among the ghosts of this place.

Structures & ground surfaces
articulating each disturbance, in sentences that run on & paragraphs that should break

—a history of intruders & encounters, beginnings & ends—

—the same story retold every day—

traces of trauma, parking lots scarred by knife-metal,
entire buildings commemorating loss.
 

[she will lament what cannot be salvaged]

 

[she needs miles in between]

To leave is to “go away from.” 

To leave is to “allow to remain.”


Kristina Moriconi is a poet and essayist whose work has appeared in a variety of literary journals and magazines as well as having been selected as a finalist in terrain.org’s 2017 Nonfiction Contest, december’s 2018 & 2019 Curt Johnson Prose Award in Nonfiction, and awarded Honorable Mention in Juncture’s 2018 Memoir Contest. Her lyric narrative, In the Cloakroom of Proper Musings, published by Atmosphere Press, is forthcoming in 2020.


Image by Kristina Moriconi