Gnashing Teeth Publishing

| words that get in your teeth

To the Neighbor Who Threatened to Call the Cops On Us During an Argument by Stephanie Axley-Cordial

smiling woman with glasses in a pink sweater with red cherries

I
It was late Spring, I think.
Your cherry tree was in bloom.
The clink of glassware and polite laughter, hinting at dinner with friends alfresco.

We argued about one of the little things I chose to chain myself to in protest of all the big ones.

He called me a
bitch

You told him to
knock it off.

Your daring eyes peering through a hole in the fence and setting my cheeks aflame.

He told you to
stay out of it.

Knock it off or I’ll call the cops

I froze as if they were already there.

II
It was the first time he had ever called me a name besides hon, sweets, love, babe, or Steph which used to roll glowing off his tongue.

He covered his bed in fifty origami flowers the first weekend we spent together

For seven years, he tucked me in every night.

He would tell strangers how I’ve written a book or that I went to Space Camp as a kid as he turned the crank on the pedestal I was only invited to stand on in public.

III
I chewed on the image of cops showing up at our door until there was nothing left but the raw inside of my cheek. Either you never called or they never came.

I imagined you telling a story about some cross-country bike trip, or maybe a wine tour in Provence.

I wonder if we had been arguing in French if it would have made a more suitable soundtrack for your evening.

IV
I was going to be a professor’s wife. I was going to take the kids to film festivals on campus.
I would get my MFA on a tuition discount and write stories whenever it suited me.

We would have students over for Thanksgiving in our arts and crafts house that had laughter and warm memories bursting from the dark wood builtins. He would make his famous mashed potatoes and I would overcook the green beans.

We would spend sabbaticals in Africa and decorate our walls with photos of the children at the feet of baobab trees and family legends.

He would take up biking in earnest. One summer, joining an old friend on a cycling tour of Provence, coming home smelling of lavender and bay leaves and calling me mon cherie with a cheeky smile.

We would meet the neighbors for dinner in the backyard, catching up on our adventures,
swapping sweet nothings and happy endings.

Stephanie Axley-Cordial(she/her) is a fat Southern poet living in the thick fog of the Pacific Northwest. She writes about heartbreak, awkward embodiment, and middle age all through the lens of someone who unapologetically loves food, meditation, and drug store romance novels.

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