After by Michael Chin

After the steel cage match, after the fans filed out of the arena, after we’d showered and left for the bar, after four Irish car bombs and two shots of whisky and three lagers between us, I pressed Dragon Princess against the chain link fence outside the lightbulb factory. It was cold enough to see our breath between our mouths. The fence imprinted mesh marks on her back. A pattern like the steel cage that goes up around the ring for one match—usually the last match, not just because it’s the dramatic climax of the show, but because what could top that spectacle?

            These mesh marks, like the cage, would fade until you can hardly remember they were there, until you forget about them, until there’s another occasion to erect them. The memory fades. The cage fades. The night and the fence both fade. The feud that demanded a steel enclosure fades. The light bulb factory fades, like the glove factory in my hometown and the smell of leather and the hungry families that outlived it. The fans might fade; some forget this ring and move on to the next, some outgrow this childish thing of wrestling. My hometown, that life before this life, before the chronic back pain, before the razor blade scars on my forehead, before I ever met Dragon Princess.

            Most things are temporary, but she put her hand flat over the stubble on my cheek, her ski cap askew, wisps of her hair across her forehead, muscles buried beneath the wool of her coat, and she was softer than I’d ever remembered. I hoped this instant might last.

Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York and is an alum of Oregon State’s MFA Program. He won Bayou Magazine’s Knudsen Prize for fiction and has published in journals including The Normal School and Bellevue Literary Review. Find him at miketchin.com and follow him on Twitter @miketchin.

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