by Mesha Maren

with-draw \with-‘dro\ vb- withdrew; withdrawn; withdrawing-  a: to remove from a place of deposit < I check the pockets of my husband’s blue jeans before placing them in the washer and withdraw a condom wrapper: a small crinkling cellophane square. The discovery settles heavy in my stomach. I smooth the packet out between my fingers. The corners of my mouth lift up as if to laugh b: to remove oneself from participation < Gary and I haven’t had sex for two years. Ever since my pregnancy he doesn’t seem interested, is always so tired. Each time I advance Gary withdraws > c: to draw (as a curtain) back or aside < I think of my neighbor who suffered a stroke and went blind. One day she woke up and couldn’t remember the color blue. The memory slipped away, withdrew, leaving a space as blank as the night d: to turn away (as the eyes) from an object of attention < We eat dinner with the ballgame on. I watch Gary closely. Search his pudgy body for some illicit sexual aura. Baby Jack whines and Gary hushes him without withdrawing his eyes from the screen e: to move back or away < After dinner, when Gary leaves, I too withdraw. Leave Jack sleeping in the crib. Get in my car and follow till Gary turns into his office parking lot. I park down the street. Smoke two cigarettes. Wait. Figure it must be one of the secretaries. Go closer. Slide behind the cat-piss bushes and press my face to the glass: Gary, naked, his back facing me, his arms wrapped around a man f: to become socially or emotionally detached < A small pale man. Gary’s mouth at the man’s neck, his hand in his hair. I watch them kiss. Their middle-aged white-man bodies so similar they could be twins. I watch them laugh. Watch, withdrawn. It is the softness of their touch that shocks me. Catches in my throat, rips the scab off my loneliness. The man helps Gary pull his shirt on. Straightens the collar, fastens the buttons on the shirt I ironed yesterday morning g: to draw back from a battlefield, to retreat < I withdraw from the window. Crouch in the bushes until they leave. I wrap my arms around my chest, pull my knees in. Above my head bats fly blind. Confident in their inability to see the dangers all around them. They swirl back to the sanctuary of the eaves. Pull their wings tight about their small bodies. Withdraw.

Mesha Maren is a writer from southern West Virginia. Her work has appeared in The Barcelona Review, Night Train, Babel Fruit, Ascent Aspirations Magazine, and Headwaters Journal. She has been a two-time finalist in the Press 53 Open Awards and a finalist in the Flat Iron Writers Contest.

About Withdraw — “Withdraw” was inspired in part by poet A. Van Jordan’s definition poems in his book, M.A.C.N.O.L.I.A.