“Bridle” By: Jessica Evans

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Darkness comes through the decaying wooden slats of the pen you forced me into last night. It’s time to wake up. Long before I hear your boots plodding along the soft autumn soil, I smell you, fresh coffee and stale tobacco assaulting my delicate nose. Involuntarily I let out a soft whimper, knowing what today is going to bring. This is training season; you’re going to push me hard, harder, the hardest of the days though yet to come. Today we’re practicing for the Big Day, the fastest two minutes of my life. You want me to finish in one hundred and forty seconds, my feet pounding the track gracefully, but still with power and force. I can’t move that fast, but you’re going to try to make me. Later today, when the sun begins its long slow descent, you’ll pat me on the ass and shove me back in here.

Throwing open the wide door, you call my name, adding baby after it for good measure. I stand back, the corner of this stall too small for both of us.

“Come on now,” your gritty voice calls out, “You know what’s coming. Don’t play games.”

I don’t ever get to play any game but yours. Don’t you see that?

I may weigh more than you, but you’re stronger. You harness me, saddling my back with your expectations, bridle my mouth so I can’t speak. You like it better that way. Whispering dreams of your success into my attentive ears, you detail the work I must do for you to take the glory. Three seasons ago, I resigned myself to knowing my nails will never be painted with bright spring suggestion, my long hair plaited with colorful ribbons. You’ve designed me to work, not to show, but still you want that wreath of victory. I bow my head as thoroughbreds saunter past, their strong faces haughty and sure. A trumpet blares in echoy morning silence. It’s time.

Trying to warm me, you pull my strings like a puppet master, leading me in circles. I buck my head. A man joins you, and the two of you dissect my body, the long lines of muscles I’ve broken down and recreated barely visible after so many seasons. It’s as if I don’t exist.

“You think she’s ready,” you ask the little Mexican standing next to you.

“Only one way to find out, ese. Let’s get her out there.”

I exhale with force and stamp my leg. I am right here, I want to call out. But this fucking metal in my mouth keeps me silent. My head turns from you toward the tender curve of the distance, steam rising up in the early October morning. We’ve stood here too long. I know it’s time, but I still pretend that I won’t feel you on my back soon enough.

You mount me. Over the years, I’ve carried too many of you – all men, all with dreams of some distant grandeur that I must create. This is my last season, I heard you tell someone that last week. You’ll turn me out to pasture after the Big Day, and find one younger, sleeker, with muscles taut and fresh, someone who might give you a trophy. Your muscled thighs flex around my body. You push me into submission.

Like an errant lover, you pull my reigns, forcing me to a speed you think is acceptable. I don’t respond quickly enough, so you whip me. We loop the track, and I glance at the clock. I’m over by twelve seconds.

“Damn it, girl. What the hell is wrong with you?” You smack me on the bridge of my nose and I cower. It shouldn’t be only my fault that I can’t move fast enough. Maybe you’re too heavy. I’m spent, and you’re feeling decidedly defeated. You let me stand without your weight as you feed bits of sugar that taste like freedom. Not bothering to wipe off the sweat I’ve poured for you, you throw a coarse blanket over my steamy body, snickering as you walk off.

“Ain’t gonna happen, Juan. Just no way. You said you know a guy?” You leave me to sleep cold and alone, shivering in my defeat. This stall cannot contain your demands. I’ve lost. Green is everywhere around me, but there are no fields.


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