As Safe as One Can Get in a Marriage
At the inmate barber shop. Inmate Robinson—pulls a straight razor. We joke how easy it would be for me to die sitting in this beat up barber’s chair. I remember how before his life sentence was overturned he’d joke with me about how hard it must be to marry another guard, a black woman. You got it easy, my man. Your wife’s got every swinging dick wrapped around her fingers. She and you safe. Robinson’s dark forefinger and thumb hold my head still. Don’t want to cut ya. The blade scrapes minuscule blond dead skin and shaving cream—all in a seamless arc. His hands as tender as my wife’s kisses. I remember how much of an asshole Robinson was to other guards down in 4 Base 2 Tier Right. I remember how he first fucked with me: him shuffling along in his hand and legcuffs, his belly chain snug; me holding his left arm so he wouldn’t fall or fight. After each step forward, one foot would pause next to his other, forcibly holding me close. He’d hum the wedding march and ask Are we gonna fuck tonight? I’d say no, show him the gold on my finger. Robinson’s laugh is slightly different in the barber shop. Less brick, more gravel. In the mirror I see him smiling with the straight razor. He’s fucking with me again. Never divorce, man; you’d never survive without her.
Jonathan Pessant is a recent graduate from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program. He was the poetry editor at the student led Stonecoast Review. His work has appeared in the Goose River Anthology and the Stonecoast Spotlight. He lives in Maine.