Hot Tin Roof is a program to showcase current literary work produced in Iowa City. The series is organized and juried by representatives of three Iowa City-based cultural advocacy organizations: Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature and Little Village magazine, with financial support from M.C. Ginsberg Objects of Art.
By Maggie Hart
#1: Apply ice packs to the bruise.
We existed within an infinite number of universes, he and I. You do, too. In these other universes, there are other yous doing other things. In one, you stand and breathe; in another, you sit and blink. In another, you stand on your hands, and you blink twice as fast and three times as often. Maybe, maybe not.
In these universes, and in ours, many outcomes exist simultaneously.
This is the quantum multiverse theory. Every choice ever made and every chance never taken exists in an assembly of parallel universes, all at once and all (theoretically) real.
I find it comforting to think that I am relevant enough to exist throughout infinity.
I also find it comforting to think that in some universes, he didn’t go hiking and we never met, I never explained to him what geocaching was, I never knew his name or that he existed at all. In some universes, we are still in love. In some universes, he never hit me. (I suppose in some universes, he hit me harder, but I prefer not to think about those.)
I contemplate the different universes in which I exist, trying to construct the perfect one, one in which I never associate love with fear. In my perfect universe, I never thought bruises were beautiful. I never pictured them as forget-me-nots he planted in my soil skin, the roots coiled around my body and neck, choking me.
Bruises are not flowers. Love is not being afraid. In my perfect universe, I would’ve known that sooner.
#2: Rub vinegar on the bruise; it can eliminate congregated blood.
“Looking for something?”
A bearded face is smiling at me, a hand shading his eyes in a lazy salute. He’s taller than I am. Older, too. Stronger.
“I am,” I say, “But it’s not important.”
He doesn’t leave. Instead, he walks towards me and begins sifting through the dirt. “It’s a lot easier for me to find things when I know what I’m looking for,” he says. Charming. I fall for it.
“Well,” I concede, “I don’t know what I’m looking for either. Ever heard of geocaching?” He hasn’t. “People hide containers and register them online with GPS coordinates. Then other people look for them, and if they find one, they can sign the logbook, take what’s inside and replace it with something else.”
“That’s what you’re looking for? A geocache?”
I nod. We keep searching. Eventually, I find it: a small clear container that someone I will probably never meet or be hurt by has left behind.
We open it together. Inside, there’s a logbook, a Pez dispenser, a flattened penny and a Hot Wheels car. He laughs. “It’s junk.”
“I don’t think so. And it’s not really about the stuff; it’s about looking for it. It’s fun.”
I sign the logbook and leave behind forget-me-not seeds, a compass and a necklace with a star pendant.
He asks me out for coffee and I say yes.
I let him take the Hot Wheels car. He probably threw it away.
#3: Put pineapple on the bruise. Pineapple can digest the protein in damaged blood vessels.
I go geocaching the day after he hits me for the first time. It feels good to be away, to be looking for something I could hold in my hands, something that had been held in other hands that may or may not hit people.
My own hands are foreign to me. I have imagined them beating his nose until it breaks, pulling at his hair, pushing him down stairs and waving as he tumbles. My hands used to be gentle; now they are untrained soldiers.
I have the right coordinates. I look everywhere.
But in love and geocaching, sometimes you can’t find it, no matter how hard you look. Because it’s not there.
When this happens in geocaching, you go home, disappointed and empty-handed. I do not know what you do when you cannot find love.
#4: Sugar can accelerate bruise healing when applied.
I think about the quantum multiverse theory when he’s angry. When he’s yelling, his face beet-colored and beefy and no longer beautiful. When he yanks my hair until chunks of it come out in his fist. I think about how, in the ultimate universe, every possible result exists, so this hurt is inevitable. If I didn’t get hurt in this universe, it would just have to happen in another one.
I loved him so much it hurt. Or maybe he hurt me so much I loved.
Both. Neither. What’s love and hurt in the grand scheme of infinity, anyway?
#5: Rubbing castor oil on the bruise can stop it from spreading.
In another universe, I never had to use all these goddamn tips.
#6: Raw potato can fade the discoloration of bruises.
You are taught to forgive the ones you love. If you love someone who hurts you, and you do not love yourself, you forgive him for hurting you. You do not forgive yourself for staying.
I log sixteen geocaches while I am with him. Physics and infinity justify how long I stay.
I go geocaching at night. Sometimes, instead of searching, I lay on the ground, looking at the sky.
My body does not know love without pain. I flinch when someone grabs my hand. I am surprised when I am hugged without an apology. When meeting someone new, I imagine how I’d get away from them if I needed to. I am forever plotting escape routes.
#7: Applying parsley controls blood clot.
“So, would you like to get coffee sometime?”
And in some universe, across time and space, against all laws of physics, through the infinite number of universes that contain an infinite amount of possibilities, I say no. And I walk away.
Originally from Colorado Springs, Colorado, Maggie Hart is studying writing, history and theater as a sophomore at Coe College. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 236.