“A woman at the sushi bar wore my mother’s perfume, that stale Claiborne scent resonant of casket wreaths and rotten fruit. I wanted to stand nearby and smell it all night.” Alex McElroy’s “Raw” is a story about loss, blame, and being cruel to the ones we love. In “Raw,” a bloody nose carries us through the narrative. It drips on faces, on sushi plates, and in sinks. We’re pretty sure you’ll love this piece.
by Alex McElroy
When did the nosebleeds begin? Months before I met Gabe? Weeks? That night? I did get a couple that night. The first came before work—technically during work. I was in the alley behind Raw, ten minutes late to my shift, and leaning my head back so I wouldn’t dirty my shirt. Eric’s car was unlocked, so I got in, knowing there’d be napkins inside. I shifted his rear-view mirror to face me. Thin red streaks crossed my lips like stitches.
My phone buzzed in my pocket. “What’s wrong?” Dad asked, after hellos, the weather.
“Allergies.” Tufts of napkins stuffed my nose.
Eventually, he asked when I planned to come home. Meaning that small town in Delaware. The original state, as he called it. “The east coast wants ya back,” he said. “We got five hundred Hancocks on a petition.”
“You need a thousand,” I said.
“I misspoke. Two thousand. A hundred. Three million and climbing.”
“I have a life here.”
“Wiping tables with your diploma?”
No diploma. But it wasn’t the right time to tell him. “I use the gown.”
“You’re all alone out there.”
So what? I thought. “No one’s alone.”
“Listen, I can get you—I know it’s not what you want—an easy job at the firm. Filing papers, answering phones. You might like it more than Mom did.”
“I need to go,” I said. I hated when he compared me to her.
“What do you say?”
“I’m already employed.”
“Will you consider it?”
“Bye, Dad.” I hung up.
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