“It took me a long time to get really good at setting the face. Sometimes I have to sculpt smashed or broken features.” His finger traces my jawbone, my chin, and then my mouth. “Gluing the lips just right so that they look natural takes practice.”

         His body presses down harder on top of mine. His voice becomes lower, softer. Both his hands smooth hair away from my face. “Putting in the plastic eye cups is easy. So is putting the adhesive on the lids.”

         “Eye cups?”

         “To keep them from sinking in.”

         I close my eyes. He kisses my left, then my right. He whispers, “Look at me. I want to see into you when you come.”

         At the end of the sweating, the grunting, the sighing and moaning, I open my eyes. I come. I cry out as he takes the last bit of me that I’d hidden safely inside.

         This is vulnerable.

         This is what it feels like to be truly exposed.

         I want glue for my lips. Adhesive for my eyelids. To be closed up and safe again.

         He rolls off me. “I make an incision here.” He touches me just above my bellybutton. “That’s to pump out the stomach, intestines and stuff.”

         He sits up. The sheet falls away, but he’s putting his clothes back on before I can see everything.

         “I have to stop.” He runs his fingers through his hair. Hair the dark shade of brown that always shows premature gray. “After you set the face of a child, it starts to be too fucking difficult. Positioning tiny arms and legs, repairing and sculpting the broken body of a toddler….”

         I reach out. He rises from the bed so I miss and touch nothing. I lay there useless, unable to heal anything inside him.

         “I’ve already decided something.” He zips his fly. ”I’ve been meaning to tell you. Those fishing boats in Alaska. They take you away for a few months. Maybe longer. I think I can do that.” He nods. He turns and looks at me. “I’m going to do that.”

         “And us? What happens to us?” I sit up, holding the sheet against my body, concealing nothing.

         He shrugs. “I don’t know. But, I need something to take me away. I have to go away.”

         I can’t think of anything to say as he goes on, as he pumps out my guts and replaces my stomach and intestines with a cold, wounded weight.

         After he leaves, I don’t even bother with clothes. I sit in front of the fireplace, in that place near the flames between heat and pain. I watch everything that he left me with burn into nothing.

         Worthless words written on paper.

         Photos of events that no longer matter.

         Shirts with the scent of cigarettes and embalming fluid.

         When I run out of his objects, I start burning my own, putting pieces of me in the fire to make less of me.

         Sculpting what’s been smashed and broken.

         Keeping myself from sinking in.

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