Author: Maya Cheav
Maya Cheav is a pile of stardust trying to be a person. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Across the Margin, ALOCASIA, Stone of Madness, and Scapegoat Review. She published her debut poetry chapbook, Lykaia, with Bottlecap Press in early 2023.
“I cheated on my wife.”
The silence that followed was thick and buttery, like a dense fog seeping through the patterned grate that stood between them, oozing through the cracks in the stained wood of the confession box.
The quiet was broken by a sob stifled in his sleeve, Hartford’s voice cracking like bones under deadweight. He made a half-baked attempt to regain his composure, clearing the cobwebs from his throat, though a spider remained, its feet itching back and forth at his tongue.
“I met this woman at work. She was sweet.”
“We chatted over lunch sometimes, usually about how shitty our boss was or what our weekend plans were. I’d tell her I sucked at cooking and all I knew how to make were egg salad sandwiches and instant noodles, so she’d offer me some of her food. Then we started getting dinner together every Tuesday, trying out new restaurants, sightseeing in the city.”
“And yesterday, when we were—”
He fiddled with the ring on his finger.
“When we were looking up at the stars at the top of Hamlin Hill, she kissed me. And I didn’t stop her.”
“I didn’t kiss her back or anything like that but I didn’t pull away. I told her that could never happen again and she understood. She knew that I couldn’t kiss her.”
“But I wanted to.”
The lit candles on the altar off the back wall of the church reflected shadows and luster back onto his silhouette, chopped between the frame.
“After I dropped her off back at her place, I drove to a bar by my house. I went in and there was this big, burly guy with a man bun, covered in tattoos all the way up from his ankles to his neck. He had a handlebar mustache filled with french fry dust and he reeked of Heineken.”
“I went over and socked him in the face, a clean shot right to the bridge of the nose. And then he clobbered me. Punched and kicked me into oblivion. And I deserved it.”
“But one trip to urgent care and a couple of weeks later, I still feel disgusted with myself. And I think if I keep going up to loud drunks at bars, I’ll end up in the twenty-seven club.”
He raised his left hand to wipe his tears as they conspired with gravity, traveling their way down his cheeks to his chin.
“I’m not Catholic, I’m not even Christian, but my wife—I figured if she knew what I’ve done she would have told me to come here. She went every Sunday. She’s always been the sensible one between the two of us.”
“I promised to cherish her always,” he said, almost crumbling.
“And I broke my promise.”
Hartford’s voice, pitched up a few half steps, echoed through the walls of the church, bouncing around in every crevice and cavern, making his loyalty known to all the angels overlooking them.
Father Donovan watched as a fly made its way into his side of the confession box, buzzing about. It seemed strange that such tiny creatures were born with a god-given speed.
“When did she pass?”
All the warmth in the room was sucked out of it, leaving a shrinking, suffocating feeling returning in its place, a vestigial barter and trade where the loss was more significant than the gain.
“Six years this coming Thursday. Bone cancer.”