Hello from Nowhere

Twirling the pen in my hand is calming me down as I read the postcard. All anxiety blows away, autumn leaves caught in a draft. It passes between my fingers, each awkwardly taking their turn. The pen shakes, top-heavy, now weightless, stiff, now fluid, a satellite thrown out of its orbit. Such a peaceful mess. The tranquility clicks up and down my limbs, a swarm of six-legged things, bunched together, moving as one.

I usually twirl my hair. I wrap the dry, brown strands around and around and around, creating spools of fine straw. But I’m not doing this now. Right now, I’m twirling the pen. I have it, so I might as well use it.

And right now, there is good reason to use it. This postcard… It was dropped into my lap not three minutes ago, no announcement, no forewarning, just like the others. I’m reading it again.

Dear April,

Hello from nowhere. Things are good. No sun. No moon. The drinks are a delight. Hope you are well.



This is the ninth postcard Jeffrey has sent in the last month. “Hello from nowhere,” they all say. What does this mean?

I should ask Dr. Miller during my appointment this Thursday. I’ve kept this from him much longer than I should have. But then again, I know what he will say. He’ll discard it all as something unnoteworthy. Not worth my time. We broke up, he’ll remind me. It does no good to linger on what once was, he’ll say.

Move on.

And please take your pills.

Things I know but don’t always want to hear.

The next day in the backyard, watching the sunlight feast on dew, cooking it, steaming it over a blistering stove. The rays of light are soaking through my shirt. Every pore feels like a lizard’s scale, slick, shiny, slimy.

Jeffrey. I think of his name. I remember his face. I wonder where his sudden need for correspondence is coming from. It’s so strange.

He never struck me as off; the lunacy in his character was that of a normal elementary school teacher, just the heightened stress bulging in his veins after dealing with the naïve and asinine activities of today’s youth. Their whines. Their demands. Their snot. Their misdeeds, like the one student’s brilliant idea to stab a classmate in the palm with a freshly sharpened pencil.

The kids at our school seemed to enjoy the thrill of getting caught in the midst of a half-witted scheme, whether it was sneaking into the girls’ bathroom, or purposely passing a basketball into someone’s nose during physical education, or tearing a spelling bee rival’s dress with a pair of safety scissors, or just being loud and continuing to be loud for the whole day.

Teachers have to be surrogate parents, charged with protecting and disciplining the children. Meanwhile, the real parents sit in offices and listen to droning meetings and blend together with all the other suits and briefcases. We are their replacements, and we are meant to cherish every minute. But the constant presence of these kids, these creatures, can make us go so far as to doubt the necessity of procreation. We never get to witness the supposed beauty and glory that we’re told children normally exude, a lie that got us into teaching in the first place. The parents do. They will return from monotony to smiles and kisses, oblivious to the false nature of it all. That’s where they are lucky. Fictional or not, it feels real. They receive something that resembles happiness. All we get is hell.

Being a single teacher meant there was no one to come home to and vent any and all frustration. We could only bottle it. Cork it shut. Watch it grow into something only you could understand, only you could translate. It would change you. Make you question everything. So then to play the field for a lover, that meant dealing with the paralyzing fear of their eventual withdrawal from you, wafting claims of “overreactions” and “apathy” across your face, a chilling sea breeze, as they pack up and leave.

The best course? Accept your fate.

You would always be “Ms. Price” and no one else.

Unless you decided on someone who was right under your nose…

The faculty looked down upon our intensifying romance, try as we did to keep it secret. Complications were “bound to arise,” they would say, and it would cause an “awkward atmosphere” that would “suck the oxygen dry” from the teacher’s lounge. But they couldn’t understand that Jeffrey and I were falling in love. Our hearts were beating in unison, tethered together with an unbreakable chain of silver and red, an inscription expressing our immortal devotion to one another etched into the top of every link.

Then Jeffrey caved in. He grabbed a pitch-black sword and severed the connection, a pool of dim sparks rising up to my neck, impossible to wade through. Crying would not heal my anguish. Screaming could not lessen the pain. It was crushing me, a can under a work boot, whenever our eyes would meet in the hallway. His would wander to the floor right away. I had no choice but to offer my resignation in order to find a fresh start. Away from him.

The daydreaming ends and I find another postcard in my lap. I don’t understand who delivers these; the backyard is empty, except for yellowjackets collecting pollen from a nearby patch of marigolds. The stress is already roasting within me, so I quickly begin twirling the pen as I read.

Dear April,

Hello from nowhere. Life is an adventure. Wish you were here. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you I miss you I miss you I miss you I miss youImissyouImissyouMissyouMissyouMissyou.



I drop the pen.

My hand goes straight to my hair and begins fashioning new knots.

What is going on?

He misses me?

He is the one who broke it off!

Is he having second thoughts?

Is he hoping to become whole once more?

Night, and I’m tossing and turning in bed. I’m scared. I’m excited. Where is Jeffrey writing from? And why is he writing to me of all people? None of it makes sense. I was out of his life, and now it seems as though he has reopened the door. I can step back into that beautiful, blue light, a lovely neon sheen, where our naked flesh polished the other’s. We explored ourselves, submerged our fingers into the other’s shoulders, cake mix, thick and delicious. Every time, we gasped. Every time, we disappeared from this world.

And we were happy.

A breakfast of bland, cardboard-like pancakes scraping against my teeth. A grinding sound as I swallow. There’s a slip of milk-white paper hiding underneath my plate.

Where are these coming from?

With a trembling hand, I slide the postcard into the open air, and I read.


Help me. I need your help. Help me. Save me. Rescue me. I’m in trouble.  Help, please, help. Please. Help. Help.


Oh no!


Sweet Jeffrey, what have you gotten yourself into?

I’m rising from the table so abruptly I nearly smash my knees into its underside. I head for the front door and keep walking. The postcard bends in my hands. The grass is moist. It squishes beneath my slippers. The wet rises up my pajama bottoms, infecting me, a plague seeping through my skin and into my blood, on a journey to my heart. The contamination is slowing me down. I’m dirty. Soiled. Buried. I need to go back and shower and change clothes—remove this refuse from my hide and start again; peel the skin back and become a new person.

But I can’t stop.

Jeffrey needs me.

He needs me…

He needs me

But I need to get out of these filthy pajamas! Where? Where can I go?

I’m searching for a neighborhood, a perfect house, and I find an ugly chartreuse residence with fogged windows and a maroon minivan in the driveway. There must be a woman who lives here; the minivan screams “mother of three.” I hope she’s my size.

To the backdoor, which is unlocked. I’m careful not to let my wet slippers squeak against the kitchen tiles. I creep low.

I find the children’s bedroom first. There are only two. Two brothers, slumbering on opposite sides of the space, blankets and sheets a mess above and below each of them. One is thin, while the other looks to be in the process of becoming plump, his round cheeks pressed against his pillow, melting gelatin. They both share a bowl of strawberry hair.

The mother is sleeping in the next room, only the head visible from under a heavy comforter, a bust sunk in cotton. She has the same hair as her sons, only longer, of course, more flowing. The bed is big enough for two, but there is no partner lying next to her; they must be at work, in a cubicle, boring and welcome respite from the thrills of family. The top of the dresser is cluttered with family portraits and snapshots of vacations to the park and the beach and national landmarks. All of the photos are filled with superficial smiles stretched across the faces of this freckled family.

I suddenly realize I know who these people are.

The O’Malleys.

I met Brenda and the husband Shawn at a parent-teacher conference, updating them on their youngest son Eric’s good standing. The plump boy, Charlie, was the unlucky recipient of the sharpened pencil attack in Jeffrey’s class. I remember when Jeffrey called Brenda and Shawn about the news. The yells on the other end of the line. Jeffrey’s face clenched with rage and guilt. It may have been just a flesh wound for Charlie, but the shame of not keeping a close and watchful eye like a good adult should made Jeffrey feel like the graphite tip had hit him right between the eyes. He immediately grabbed me and took me to his bed, craving a better taste in his mouth. He tasted me.

Brenda is sound asleep, so I’m sure she won’t mind if I borrow some of her clothes. We’re close to the same size.

I’m scavenging through her closet. I find a black dress, glossy and exciting. I find a pair of navy-blue stilettos, sparkling and wonderful. This will do.

I’m stripping off my pajamas and catch my reflection in the mirror. Look myself up and down. The bend of my neck mounted on my shoulders. My ribs under my breasts, stripes of pink. The scars running down my thighs. Jeffrey’s name. My reflection smirks evilly and I look away.

I hop into the black dress. Now there is elegance, beauty, divinity. I’m off to an important dinner; I’m about to feast on roast duck and leaves drenched in oil and vinegar. But wait. I’m not finished yet. If I’m off to the ball, if I’m about to see Jeffrey, I have to look my best. My absolute best.

Brenda’s makeup kit rests in her purse. I click it open and begin to apply all that is necessary.





It’s like the good old days, preparing for work, for him.

I place the kit safely back in her purse and examine my reflection again. This is the woman Jeffrey fell for. The one he wants to save him.

And I will.

But then a thought is stomping its way to the front of my mind. What if he’s tricking me? What if this is all just a game? Some cruel joke at my expense? What if I’m a fool? What if none of this is real?

My reflection is grabbing me by the neck, and it pulls me into the mirror. The glass ripples around me; I’m in a bead of rain. She wrestles me to the floor. Pins my wrists down. Claws at me with her nails. She calls me an idiot. So, so stupid for thinking Jeffrey would ever want me back. Her eyes are fire. She’s too strong; I can’t do a thing. She retches insults into my ears and sticks her heels into my belly.


Jeffrey said he needed me!

You’re a moron, she scolds.

He still loves me!

Stop lying to yourself, she growls.

It’s the truth! It has to be!

You’re hopeless, she hisses.

No. I’m not.

I find the strength. I push her off of me, pin her, squeeze my legs against her waist until she wheezes for air. I smack her across the face once, twice. I press my palms against her cheeks, tightly, fiercely, putty between my fingers. The blush smears into bruises. Tears soak and lather the mascara. I press my lips against her own, force her mouth open, find her vile tongue and bite down hard. I rip away quickly. Her tongue splits in two. I sit up and spit the purple lump of meat back into her face. I grab her by the hair and twist her neck into a corkscrew shape.

Shards are plummeting down onto my hands as the mirror breaks. They cut with delicate brushstrokes across the backs of both hands. Blood is spilling gradually and begins to dot the carpet, a pale-faced child ill with chicken pox, new blemishes forming every second. I wipe my face, find blood there, too, melted chocolate on my chin. I examine the inside of my mouth; my tongue is complete, thank goodness, but I bit my lower lip.

Brenda sits upright. She sees me. Her mouth drops in shock, in fear. There’s nowhere to hide. I try to explain, but she screams. I bolt out of the room, snatching her purse under my arm and sticking the postcard inside of it, spurting apology after apology. Her sons appear in their doorway. Brenda tells them to go back to their room and lock the door. She chases me out, shooing a fly out the room. I’m leaving a trail of red breadcrumbs on the hardwood floor. I collect a couple napkins from the kitchen, do my best to hold them against my injured knuckles. I leave the way I came in.

I need a secluded area to watch my blood clot. I need a pen, I need my hair, I need to spin something, but I can’t, not as long as I bleed. I can’t get blood in my hair. What would Jeffrey think? My heart ricochets in my head. I spit a glob of cherries onto the ground.

I find a bus stop. I sit. I sit and wait. I hide my hands from pedestrian view. Suck the shallow crater in my lip dry. I wonder where Jeffrey could be. “Hello from nowhere,” he kept saying, but he has to be someplace. He has to be somewhere in order to stamp and send the postcards.

Unless… He never wanted me to find him. That’s why there was never a return address. He never wanted me to know where he was. He never expected me to leave home and go searching for him.

But then why ask for my help?

Maybe he was kidnapped? These postcards were his only means of communication, but he couldn’t divulge all the necessary information or else his captors would slit his throat.

But then why would they even allow Jeffrey the means to write to anyone?

A sobering thought: what if this is all a trap for me? What if they weren’t even from Jeffrey and someone is after me? They will shackle my wrists to a dank table, drill holes into my jaw, ignore my hoarse howls of terror, interrogate me with questions for which I will never have answers. The cuts in my hands would be torn back open, filled with salt. I’ll be drained, laid barren. My dried-up carcass, now useless to my torturers, nothing but a dehydrated prune, would be dropped into a lake. And that would be the end of me.

I need to calm down.

I shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

I’ll check Jeffrey’s apartment first. See if he’s been at home this whole time. And if he’s not, look for clues to his whereabouts. Check there first. Check there first.

The bleeding has stopped, though the pain remains. I toss the napkins into a nearby bin and continue. Jeffrey lives on the other side of town, but I can walk there.

I’m trying not to race, but the gears in my legs have been switched to high. My hands are aching, throbbing, bouncing. I’m doing my best to shield the wounds from passersby, but the looks they shoot my way suggest discomfort.

I’m approaching my school. My old school. The playground is empty. Excess sand is sprinkled onto the end of the slides. The swings, calmly stirred by weak spirits.  A basketball stands abandoned on the court, a dead tumbleweed. I can picture Jeffrey and I sitting at the wooden lunch table near the sandbox, observing the kids and ensuring their safety. His eyes keep peeking at my figure, sizing up the chances of our possibilities. I know he’s doing it because I’m doing the same thing.

There’s a park. A chestnut tree hunching over its shadow. I should rest. Only for a moment, I tell myself. Jeffrey may need me sooner than later. I enter the shadow of the tree and rest my back against its jagged body.

I can feel the exhaustion taking control. It’s been a trying day, to say the least. My pulse’s cadence is changing from punk to waltz, death metal to romantic ballad. It’s nice. It brings the calm. But I can’t let it collapse my eyelids. I need to keep going. My love, my life, needs me.

It wouldn’t hurt, though. I can just close my eyes for a moment.

Only a moment…

Only a…


Molten rocks melt and swirl me into a dark soup, slowly churning my bones until I’m nothing but a rubber suit. I’m torn in half, each end frayed and loose. My taffy legs are devoured by crows with broken beaks and muscle-pink eyes. They inflate to the point of eruption, but their helium stomachs cause them to rise into the stars, each bird slowly inhaled into a nebula before disappearing into infinity.

I spy Jeffrey atop a mountain of flies. His wings flake and crumble and they snap off his back. He’s suddenly nose-to-nose with me. His forked tongue sprays me with glue and venom. The poison curls down into my stomach, lapping up the juices in its wake. I’m dropped into polyester, warm, inviting. He’s inside of me, thrusting. Every thrust is agonizing, and I need more. My fingers rake into his back and I push him further within me, through me.

We are in love, driving across a canyon of white, our bodies dripping into one another to become one person.






My eyes are opening. I’m no longer under the tree. I’m not even outside. I’m in the back seat of a van. A black man in a gray uniform is driving, while a pale man in a similar uniform sits next to me. My hands are bandaged, but they are both bound, secured to the handle on the ceiling of the van with tough, plastic cuffs.

It was as I feared.

It was a trap!

And they found me!

I demand to be released. They ignore me, insist it will all be fine and other nonsense. I’m still drowsy and my head aches, a hangover of sorts. But I keep kicking and screaming, try to loosen my hands and get out of here. The pale man tries to hold me down, reaching for more restraints, telling the black man to stop the van because it will make it easier. The black man sighs and pulls over to the side of the road. He shuts off the engine.

I immediately spear the pale man’s chest with one of my heels. It impales him with a squish. He yelps. The black man swears and jumps out of the van, heading for my door. I clock the pale man on the head with my other foot and his eyes roll back into nothingness.

The black man opens my door, and I’m hanging by my wrists, my feet dangling over the pavement. He pulls out a syringe and points it toward me. I flail and squirm and knock it out of his grasp. It flies several yards away and lands in a fuzzy bush. He swears again and goes after it. I take this opportunity to muster up all of my strength and send it to my arms. I pull at the handle, all my muscles clenched and strained, about to burst, a balloon. Soon I will pop. This whole stretch of road will be strewn with my remains, my everything.

The handle breaks off with a dull thump. I’m down on my back. I quickly jump to my feet just as the black man returns with the syringe. I swipe him across the face with my bound fists, slamming him into the dirt.  I press my foot against his neck and insist he tells me if Jeffrey is all right and where he is. He denies knowledge of any sort and calls me a name. I smash my foot against his skull. He becomes a rag doll.

I search his pockets with both hands but find no keys. I look back in the van and see they are still in the ignition. Nothing to release me from these cuffs, but it doesn’t matter. I can still drive. I gallop to the back of the van to drag the pale man’s limp figure onto the ground. I return to the driver’s seat, turn the key, drive away, hunched over the steering wheel, fingers gripping the bottom.

Why me? What could they possibly want with me? Money? I’m a teacher; I don’t have any money! I’ve done nothing to deserve this. Unless Jeffrey isinvolved somehow. He wants me out of the picture for some godforsaken reason. Or perhaps he wants vengeance for me leaving our school; he may have ended things between us, but in his mind, he still possesses me, a souvenir, so how dare I run away without his permission. Could he have used himself to lure me in? Complicit bait, a fearless worm, dangling itself in front of me, tempting, enchanting, and it worked.

Only one way to find answers.

I’m driving to his apartment. Time slows. Every inch is a week; every foot a month; every mile a year. I can feel the wrinkles trenching into my face, my organs slowly rotting into apple cores, my hair wilting into snow.

There it is. Jeffrey’s street. I park the van, grab the postcard out of Brenda’s purse and dash outside to the door of his building.

I ring the buzzer.

No answer.


No click, no hello, no who-is-it.

I start hammering my cuffed hands against the door, ordering it to open. My hands cry out, but I keep pounding. Blood hits the glass in a small spray. An elderly man with a dim glass eye appears and opens the door, asking what the urgency is for. I leave the question alone and run up the stairs to the third floor. I find Jeffrey’s door, a door I’ve pawed at so many times, and begin to bang wildly against it, chanting his name. My eyes burn as they leak.

No one comes. No one is home.

I try the knob, and the door is open.

Oh no.

I cautiously place a foot inside, and then the rest of me. Who knows what lies around every corner? They could be waiting for me. This could be exactly what they wanted.

The place is piled with boxes, each one labeled with Sharpie: “kitchen,” “living room,” “shelf stuff.” The walls are deserted and tanned. I search the other rooms and find everything is packed there, too.

I’m tearing the boxes open. Only clothes. Only books. I rummage through them all. Photographs. Folders. A clock. Everything I find, only more questions.

Something creaks behind me. I freeze. Another uniformed man? Someone worse? This could be it.

I stand up straight and circle around to see Jeffrey, standing in the doorway, a bewildered and frightened look on his face. He appears unscathed.

I’m giggling with relief and flying over to him to capture him in a warm embrace. I hold him. I kiss him on his ears. I whisper thanks to God and the world.

He quickly wiggles out of my grasp and pushes me away. He doubles back from me, his eyes zipping from my face to my bleeding hands. He asks what I’m doing here. He slowly reaches into his pocket to pull out his phone.

I explain his postcards and my frantic search. I hand him his last postcard. He takes it skeptically, reads it over carefully.

He dials a saved number on his phone.

He doesn’t answer right away when I ask him what’s going on. Why were those people after me? Who were they? What is happening?

He lifts up the postcard. He says it’s in my handwriting.

I don’t understand. I don’t believe him. I grab the postcard back. The message appears the same. I laugh and call Jeffrey crazy.

He calls me the crazy one, and it’s not a joke. He’s serious.

I’m getting really confused. A ball of twine is forming in my throat. I’m starting to twirl my hair. Jeffrey stutters into the phone. He asks to speak with Dr. Miller. I ask him why he’s calling my therapist, but he ignores me. He mutters something about “escape,” about a “hospital,” about wanting the police to “take me back.”

I don’t know what’s going on, but something tells me I’ve been a fool for ever believing Jeffrey would actually want me back. The woman in the mirror was right.

I apologize to him and start to leave. He barks at me, but I don’t know what he says. Something about staying put, maybe. Something about waiting for them to come take me away. Something about someone, maybe me, being psychotic.

I’m exiting the building, my feet dragging across the sidewalk. I reach down and remove the stilettos, drop them into a gutter. Sticks and rocks and small glitters of dust become my new shoes. I don’t know what was real and what was all in my head.

I have a lot to think over.

The sirens in the background make it hard to think. I begin to twirl my hair. The noise turns into music. The calm starts to return.