Bernadette Benda

Empty Bottle in My Bones

It was sunny. The day, the afternoon, even cloudless in the evening darkness. But in my ribcage I had a storm inside a bottle, sealed for so long that by the end of the night when I opened it, only a few raindrops came out. 

I had been sure by the forecast that it would rain all night inside me. Rivers to run down my bed and leave my face raw with salt. 

It only sprinkled. I was left dry. 

Now I carry an empty bottle inside me and am unsure how to fill it. With stones and shells maybe, pretty enough to put on a shelf. Moss and a spritz of moisture to keep a tiny ecosystem forever quarantined. 

Or keep empty. 

Empty like a photo album bought for a baby never born. Empty like gardening pots stacked in the garage, forgotten or no longer of any use. Empty like a house just moved out from, except no one ever moves in. Empty like a nest after a robin’s egg falls, and even the bird knows not to return. 

I think of smashing the bottle, but that would only break my bones and the heart it closely encases. 

I think of burying the bottle, but that would only suffocate me and I don’t want to die stuffed in darkness and dirt. 

So I leave the bottle alone. I walk and hope people don’t hear it clanking and knocking against my bones. I hope that nothing decides to crawl inside it before I can decide what to do and an unwanted guest becomes locked inside me. 

 I keep the bottle shut. 

And I keep the bottle out of the sun. 

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Bernadette Benda is a writer of nonfiction, poetry, and fiction, living in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. She is a performer and choreographer of ballet and modern dance, a visual artist, and a freelance photographer.