Marissa mcnamara

Marissa McNamara teaches English composition and creative writing at Georgia State University and in Georgia prisons and has taught at the San Miguel Writers’ Conference and Literary Festival. She is also a contributing poetry editor for The Chattahoochee Review. Her work has appeared in several publications including the anthologies On Our Own and My Body My Words and the journals RATTLE, Assisi, Medical Literary Messenger, StorySouth, Muse/A, Memoir Magazine, The Cortland Review, and Amsterdam Quarterly.


The water runs red


Nights, the boys wake me. They stand in the corners, watching for my eyes to open, and then they are on top, pinning me down with their dirty sheet smell. They are pungent and wet with adolescence.

I am dry as a corn stalk. Stiff. Silent. Brittle girl. I’ve heard there are mazes in corn fields, but I’ve never walked my way out of one.

When I was little, my father scrubbed my vagina hard with his soapy hands.

When I was not little, he touched my breast with his right hand while he drove. He kept it there until the downshift. I looked out the window. Watched the asphalt lines slash by.

The boys’ faces are hazy, blacked out, anonymous.

Sometimes my room smells yellow, like stale beer, like the inside of a boy’s car.

He had a brown LeMans. He was a high school wrestler with thick arms and barbells in his bedroom. At his sister’s birthday party, he pulled me into his parents’ dim bedroom. Humped my leg with his hard dick like a dog. His face burned my skin. I went back to the cake and balloons, my raw face trying to smile. Weeks later, my friend ran away, and I knew why, knew what he had done to her too.

My mother accused me. “What did you do to make him think this was ok?” I shouldn't have told her. I knew she’d told my father. He began looking at me from the corner of his eye.

The boys say nothing.

When boys from school called, my mother said, “What are you letting them do that makes them want to call you?” She said, “If you are kissing them now, what will you be doing next year?”

In the dark, they form a circle, look down on me breathe as one.

When I was 16, the boy I loved led me away from a party. We walked across the damp lawn to his car, and he kissed me, pushed me up against the cool metal, opened the door, and I slid in, drunk and spinning. I closed my eyes, and he was on top of me, sliding inside of me, and I trusted him because I loved him only I heard something, and when I opened my eyes, there were six shadow-boys from the party watching through the nicotine stained windows of the car. He had given them tickets to watch the show. I felt them press against the car, faceless in the dark, the glow of the party behind them.

Sometimes I meet a man who says he loves me, but then he turns me over while I sleep and takes me from behind.

Sometimes the boys don’t come. Sometimes it is a man with his liquor and leather smell. He bends me over the side of the bed.

If I am lucky, it is the right day, and there is blood to make me wet. The boys stay away, but the man doesn’t mind woman blood on his dick and his stomach, doesn’t care if he stains my sheets and my wall when he picks me up, presses my face against it, pushes into my slick skin, when he kisses me without his lips, just his fast tongue cutting me so I can’t speak.

When I wake, the walls are red-brown. I strip my bed and scrub the sheets. The stains are shadows. A shroud.

My skin crackles with dried blood. Thighs tight when I bend. Lips swollen. I shower. The water runs red.

The man has no fear. He takes the parts that bleed and the parts that don’t. One day the boys will be men. All of them.  And my room will be full.