Kate Wisel


Ways to Break Me


Last week I asked Pat if we could see The Fighter on New Year’s Day. I figured after a night at The Middle East we’d be completely hung-over, plus it was our only day off. Pat works six days a-week changing oil, thrusting open hoods covered in frost and barking orders to his ex-con employees who call him the boss. Meanwhile I’m in class, in a darkroom, flipping over matte black and whites. With my tongs Pat appears gradually, first his scalley cap, the hooked impression of his dimples; a barstool. The rest of the time it seems I’m just waiting around, so maybe it’s not really The Fighter I want to see.

I wasn’t good at predicting things till I started seeing Pat.

It’s New Year’s Day: we’re hung-over on his mattress. No sheets since last summer when we met. I’m in his Celtics tee-shirt and nothing else. Pat’s facedown in his pillow, his brown hair spiked down in a million directions like a field of grass that’s been paraded on. I get real close to Pat’s ear, ready to whisper something before I change my mind. Homemade water! Coming right up, I say, spotting Pat’s car keys on the carpet. In the bathroom I let the sink run to get the cloudiness out. Also I need a minute. I sit on the edge of the tub and find a rusted bobby pin I left from a shower with Pat. I slide it down against my thumb, reddening the middle while either side presses up white, like fainting. I crack my back in one careful bend then redo my ponytail with the bobby pin balanced between my teeth. In the mirror I glance down like a flipped price tag as I fill Pat’s water to the very top.

Pat swallows it whole. I step up onto the mattress to be as tall. He’s throwing on a beater as I start jumping around, doing little spins that lift my shirt, free show. Today’s movie day I say, running out of jump, sort of ready to measure Pat’s glance. He steadies my body by the hips, shut your mouth, nine-hour energy he says and closes it with a tongue-kiss. Sometimes Pat calls me his child, or a yo-yo, and I think a child’s yo-yo.

I’m making you eggs, I say and Pat goes don’t forget coffee.

Out in the living room Roger’s where we left him, with his mouth wide open on the recliner, like a security guard who dozed off during a robbery. He’s got one of those throw blankets with Cape Cod crocheted across it. Rog used to work at Best Buy till he got fired for drinking on the job. Then he got a job at The Draft but got fired there too. Now Pat lets him work with him a couple days a week. I watch him sleep in his familiar tilt, when he gets drunk enough he becomes this sleepwalker, or cartoon, knocking against walls, saying wait wait wait to bouncers.

Pat breezes outside, every morning he checks the weather by going outside and leaves the apartment door open. Roger feels the cold rushing in and flips to his side, says something like Aiy! I’m not leaving in his sleep. I whack a whole dozen eggs one by one onto the counter. Pat says Jesus and I look up to his reflection in the kitchen window. He slides a hand up the tee I’m wearing, with this huge grin I can only see in reverse.

When the coffee stops sputtering I unscrew a bottle of Bailey’s and pour in seven seconds because I know the way to Pat’s heart. We’re on vacation, baby! he’s saying as he digs for beers in the fridge.

We sip them with our eggs as Roger joins us in consciousness, transforming the Cape Cod blanket into a shawl. I remind Pat the last showing of The Fighter is at 9:45. I really said Oh like it had just occurred to me.

I turn to Roger and say, any New Year’s Resolutions? and just for Pat he says, forking eggs into his face, to stop it. Pat and Roger grew up on the same street in Quincy and rode bikes to their first job packing groceries at Shaw’s. They also dropped out of Framingham State together their first semester. That’s exactly how Pat told it on our first date. That’s nice, was what I said.

Pat whips the blanket off Roger so he’s hunched and freezing. The Fuck!

We’re a threesome. Sometimes it feels like that, or like if Roger and I completed each other we’d be everything Pat ever needed. Us cruising into Jery Remy’s late night on either side of Pat, Roger ripping shots as Pat and I take over the dance-floor, dripping off Pat as he swings me, bends my body back so my pony-tail dusts the floor; lifts my hips so our lips meet.

In the mornings we’ll say things like it’s a brand new day. I really believe in that. Do you believe in Pat? I ask from the kitchen. I’ve developed this cleaning tick. First I start with Simple Green till I’ve run out of paper towels, then I move onto the dishes, then it’s the floor, then I’m just straightening out bills on the counter, sipping my beer and emptying out the silverware drawer. Pat’s in the living room flicking bottle caps at Roger. What? he says. When I decide to give it a break I slide next to him on the couch and say first of all… and Pat says second of all.

MTV Jams is on and he gets up to blare it, squinting with the remote. From the sliding doors I see the sun dropping down over the parking lot; it sinks between the missing blinds. It’s getting dark and all I’ve done is scrubbed Pat’s kitchen again. I lean forward to crack another beer. As it hisses Pat turns back, all crooning with his arms outstretched to me slumped on the couch. I stare at him as I tilt my hallowing can, cold beer dripping down either side of my chin. Before I can set it down he’s throwing me over his shoulder, slapping my butt as Roger mutters idiots.

Pat tosses me back onto the couch but I make a leap back at him. He drops me onto the carpet like I just came out of the oven. I push the couch against the wall like I’m clearing a burning automobile from the highway. The room’s become a ring and Pat looks the part because somewhere along the line he’s lost his shirt.

Pat grabs me from the waist and it’s like a disco ball drops down from the ceiling, throwing specks of light against the carpet. I’m pushing his chest to the floor as the music slows. It’s R&B hour and Nobody is Supposed to be Here starts playing.

On top of him I lock his wrists to the floor as he lifts my hips up with his till we’re off the ground. We stay like that for awhile till I say Round one.

Pat goes easy on me for a little. He shoots me a look like I’m some kind of weirdo when I lick my lips, all I own you, now. You’re a loser I say and that’s it, he lurches from under me and gets me pinned. We wrestle like brothers in a struggle. Pat tugs off my shirt. I glance up at Roger on the couch, leaning back with his arms over his head watching us. Pat breathes into my face and skates his fingers up the back of my ponytail. He kisses me under his chest and I kiss him back, he finds my neck and licks around my nipple in a slow circle till it hardens.

During winter break Roger and I stood in the front yard of Pat’s mom’s house sipping coffees while Pat and his brother packed up her house. Roger was flicking a cigarette when suddenly Pat stuck his head out of the third floor attic window. I can still see him, coming back with an old Sony TV and pushing it out, all the thousands of pieces scattering across the walkway. Sometimes I’d just show up at Pat’s when I couldn’t reach him. I’d have a peach in my hand as he’d answer the door all It’s my girl! and I’d forgive him real fast for whatever and let him bite into the peach. I’d try icing the purple around his eye from his blackout. Sometimes when things got quiet I’d look at him and think: I'll show you aggression.

Back on the floor we interlock our fingers as I close my eyes. Being with Pat makes me feel like my teeth are growing out of my stomach, like my heart beats in my fists. I twist him back, from my gut, in a single sweep. I wrap my thighs around his waist, flushed.

I keep him down till my wrists shake, then give. Pat digs into my armpits. I throw my head back and I laugh, lose my balance; forget I’m fighting. I’m laughing too hard to say Stop. Pat gives me a breath, standing up. I look up at him drowsily, maybe I’m even smiling, my body sprawled out and vibrating. He reaches down for my rib. Even the carpet hears the crack.



Kate Wisel lives in Boston and attends UMass Boston. Her poetry has appeared in Breadcrumb Scabs magazine and


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MadHat, Issue 15, Winter 2013-2014