brevity_frostIn her left hand she holds the vase he made her, heavy and cool.  His initials are carved in the bottom, deep ridges made of the familiar initials in the painfully recognizable handwriting.  They were there before he proposed, and they still endure even after he dumped her.  There’s a hammer in her other hand, one she took from a drawer in her bedroom where it’s lived since she was four years old.

When her grandfather gave her a hammer for Christmas that year she hadn’t been entirely surprised, even if she didn’t understand.  He was always doing things like that.  Papa explained that it was for emergencies, that sometimes you had to break something in order to escape.  He was thinking along the lines of windows and fire.  She has a vase and an ex-fiancé that still haunts the house.

Except she isn’t the destroying type.  She creates: the tattoo on her wrist, a retreat with her best friend on the should-have-been-wedding-weekend, and two CD mixes to listen to on the trip there and back. She cleanses: the rings went to a jeweler, Goodwill reaped the benefits of the breakup, and he even got some of his things back.  She doesn’t destroy.  That was his domain.

The numb feeling inside as she sets the vase on the ground and kneels next to it is an old friend.  The numbness of winter, of denial, of broken dreams and the word forever spoken and then retracted.  She doesn’t know how to destroy, but she knows how to be numb.  She had the feeling perfected shortly after he told her she was a mistake and a waste of his time, and it’s only failed her on a few occasions.  Unless it’s failing her every day.  That’s something she’s afraid to learn.

She kneels by the vase, hovering over it, testing the heft of the hammer.  It’s not a hesitation – it’s a moment’s pause to wonder if this is actually going to happen.  To accept that maybe it’s not acceptable to be numb anymore.

The night she found their wedding invitation, months after he ended it, flashes through her mind.  She could hate him.  She could hate him to the depths of hell, for leading her on and making her believe.  Self-hate is nothing new, but hating him?  That’s a direction she hasn’t gone before.  A dirt road with a locked gate at the end.

The decision is made.  This time she raises the hammer higher, but her heart isn’t entirely in it yet.  The metal head bounces off the thick fired clay sides, and that does it.  Her next blow hits home, shattering the vase with a sound that makes the child inside her scramble to come up with the right words to follow I didn’t do it! Except she did do it, and now that she’s done it she’s not going to stop until the entire thing has been reduced to pieces.  The hammer rises and falls in a rhythm, hypnotic, until she suddenly breathes and blinks and comes back to herself.

Now the vase is in shards no larger than quarters, some as small as dimes.  With the hammer still in her right hand, she uses the left to cautiously search through them, looking for the initials.  Knowing somehow that they’ll all be on the same splinter, knowing that she can hate him for that even if she can’t hate him for shattering her life.  There they are, huddled together in the middle of the fragment, away from the broken edges.  She picks it up and gives it a closer look before tossing it aside, not looking to see where it lands.

Her rib cage, having been ice for so long, nearly aches with the feel of a hot coal nestled near her heart.  The numbness came on slowly and was easy to accept.  This sudden hate, small and bright, will take some time to get used to.  If she wants to get used to it at all.

Getting up off the floor, she goes to put the hammer back where it belongs.  It’s never touched a nail – the vase was its maiden voyage.  Papa gave it to her so she could break glass and escape, and such a hammer couldn’t be used for the mundane, the ordinary.  Closing the drawer on it again, she reflects that there’s only one flaw: she had never gotten the chance to ask Papa what she was supposed to do after.

Rebecca Frost is a master’s student at Michigan Technological University and lives in South Range, Michigan.  This is her first publication.

Photo by Tricia Louvar