Sahara Avenue by Sarah Marshall
In her arm, every vein is outspoken, spurling and spiking through the skin, marrying on the way from elbow to wrist, making its children and sending them across hands. The fingers are still thick enough to keep their blood a secret, but enough of this and they will reveal it too. The girl is happy she will soon see the veins that wrap the ring finger, tiny, a filigree, too pretty to buy. It’s where all the blood goes and comes back. Her sister’s old science book said that. The heart sends it all there, to that little point, for no good reason, and then calls it back. And the blood, so obedient, does what it’s told.
This is why we now wear wedding and engagement rings on the third finger of the left hand. Physicians in the Middle Ages believed that a large vein ran straight to the heart from the ring finger. They called it the vena amoris.
Too much blood, she thinks. If she had a fake ID she could sell some. Forget the money; she’d give it away. She has shrunk, drawn in toward herself, her bones jostling each other when she sleeps, knee kissing knee, and her blood courses through joints too small for its rushing song. Her head hurts. She doesn’t need the money. She just wants them to take it away.
Stay in one place long enough and a thin rime of money will find its way into your hands: like car exhaust, worth more and more unwanted, come pennies and dimes and nickels. The dimes, she finds, are the best to suck on: skin-thin, they lodge under the tongue and flavor the breath unfelt. Try to speak and she will bite down or swallow. And here is the lesson: best not to.
Best to close that mouth of yours and let those who pass by—thick in their flowered shirts, in their shining suits, in their bravest gambling clothes—imagine what you might say. They will imagine better than what you can manage, and their buckets slop with coins, and their pockets ache with chips, and they will relieve themselves of some slim weight as they pass you.
Here she learns what she thought she knew already: she is, in the end, in the close of each day and in the close of a girlhood, and in the only light she can see herself—the pink light of lit-up palms on the strip and the stuttering light behind the palm trees’ swaying—meant for relieving men of the things they can no longer bear.
Sarah Marshall’s fiction has recently appeared in Saw Palm, Blacktop Passages, The Collagist, Hobart, and Harpur Palate, and her nonfiction in The New Republic and The Believer.