A Short List of Things I Remember About That Weekend in Texarkana

by Alisha Karabinus

The way my fist felt, pounding into Jared’s garage wall until the thin wood split, until my hand swelled and purpled. How you hauled on my arm and told me to stop, that everything would work out in the end. That we would fix it and move on.

Jared shoving you in the yard, him shouting, “I let you stay in my house. In my house. What were you thinking?” Me saying we were careful, we were, I promise. The way no one was listening. You covering your face with your hands. How I slipped in the dew, surprised, when the neighbor yelled over the fence for us all to be quiet, it was four o’clock in the morning for chrissakes. The bruise we discovered later on my hip. How you kissed it and said you were sorry, so sorry.

Those digital letters. Not a plus sign or minus, nor a pair of wavering lines to be argued, but a word. No mistakes. No doubts.

The long, slow drive through southern Arkansas on my way home, the start-and-stop highway traffic, the gas station stares from under camouflage caps. The way it felt like everyone knew. The way I could only think about money. How would I get the money? How would I hide it? How I pulled over in Benton when you called, saying you’d marry me if you could. That you wanted to. The squeak of steering wheel vinyl against my forehead. The low murmur of hunters carrying rifles outside the car, accents stretched like rubber bands.

The next day, how the lie poured out on its own: the car had stuttered, stalled, it was the alternator, had to be, that the recommended mechanic only took cash. The way I’d willed my hands to stillness to avoid suspicion. The way I’d held eye contact to look earnest. Honest. The way my husband nodded and turned right back to the television without pressing me.

Shaking in reception. The tension of waiting in a hard chair, the pain in hips and back. That loosening when I told the counselor I was afraid because I hadn’t slept with my husband for two years and she said, “Me too.” The way she lifted my hand, touched gently the scabs webbing the side of my fist. “I stayed married,” she told me. “We worked things out. He never knew.” The way she smiled when I said I didn’t know what would happen. The way she seemed so sad.

How small and white the first pill was in my hand.

How it felt to cry into the toilet. The metallic smell that rose from everything. The precise moment when something hard and round slid from my body. Like a golf ball, I told myself. Like something distant and safe.

The way, all that weekend, I bled and puked, and he never noticed. The way you messaged me in the morning, at lunch, on your way home, asking if I was okay, begging me to tell you I was okay, and how I only ever said I was fine, that things were just fine.

Alisha Karabinus is co-founder and Executive Editor of Revolution House magazine and an MFA candidate in Fiction at Purdue University, where she is also the Managing Editor of Sycamore Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such publications as Baltimore Review,the Southeast Review, Passages North, and PANK. She lives in Lafayette, Indiana, with her husband and children.

What fascinating, surprising things can you tell us about the origin, writing, revision of this piece?

This story is part of a series I’m writing, possibly toward a chapbook collaboration with my friend Amy Rossi. All my stories are short lists—though the forms they take vary—because I am a listmaker in all aspects of my life. I make a lot of traditional lists, items to-do 1-57, etc., but I also have the tendency to list or stack things in my writing: words, descriptions, scenarios. I repeat and remix in quick succession. I thought maybe the best way to break that pony would be just to ride it, to see if I could take my natural tendencies and shape them into something that I could control, and so the short lists were born.

With this one, I wanted to write about a tough situation, but around it rather than into it, and try to pierce through just at the hardest moments, those kind of tangible things that stick with us. Hence the dew, the bruise, the camo caps. The little white pill. I know when I think back to hard moments in my life, it’s the tiniest details that stick out, and because I am a listmaker, that tends to be how I organize those memories as well. It seemed fitting for a story like this.

In revision, I took an unusual approach: I set the story up as a Prezi, because I wanted to play with form. At first it was just an exercise, to see what could happen, but once I found myself looking at each section separately, a few lines of black text on stark white, I cut and slashed and got very into the shape and feel of each section. I write a lot of stories in short sections like this, and I think I’m going to start editing them separately in this fashion more often. It really helped take me out of my comfort zone so I could see everything more clearly, and I’m always looking for ways to do that.


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