The House
Jeff Vande Zande

Two days ago one of them came in, squeezed the loose flesh around my gray-haired pectoral into his grip and, with his other hand, pushed the sharp of a safety pin through my nipple.
He leaned close to my ear. "Time heals all wounds," he whispered, a favorite phrase of theirs. It brings no comfort at the time and yet is always true.
My throat is still sore from first screaming and then sobbing.
I don't remember being abducted. It must have happened when I was very young.
Weeks sometimes go by. Numb month becoming another numb month. What I do exactly I don't know, but time passes.
Sometimes I think that they've forgotten me. Maybe it will end this way -- synonymous days fading into a quiet death.
Then I wake to find that they've left me a magazine full of naked women, a jar of Vaseline, and beer for afterwards.
I'm ashamed that they are watching. My shame doesn't stop me.
Other times I'm woken by one of them pressing just-extinguished matches against the white of my eyes, or pushing thumb tacks through my fingernails into the quick beneath, or twisting a darning needle up my urethra.
Sometimes it's only itchy hairs down the collar of my shirt or a slap in the face.
Years ago there was a woman. I don't know how she ended up in my room. She said she was always there, too, in another part of the house.
I remember holding her in the darkness, whispering in her ear, "If it could always be this way, it wouldn't be so bad."
For a time, they let us keep the child we had. A beautiful boy.
I sometimes hear him in the cold air return. . . calling me. He says he's okay, but I don't know. I never see him.
The woman is gone. They injected a syringe filled with soft feces into her veins again and again. They made me watch her die.
I've learned to see the random misery that they bring as challenges that keep me from suffocating in my loneliness.
I woke this morning in a bathtub as warm and comforting as a womb. The one who came in was female, and she held a plate of steaming lobster meat.
She rolled her sleeve, reached down through the suds, the water. . . found me.
With her other hand, she dipped claw meat into salty butter, set it in my waiting mouth.
I inhaled staccato breaths.
"That's right, live in this moment," she said. "It's everything." She was close to my ear. "Don't think about tomorrow. It will be nothing like this."