By - Apr 23, 2018

Among \ə-ˈməŋg\ prepositiona: in the presence or company of < Hail Mary full of grace, blessed art thou among women. I grip the sleeve of Lindsay’s sweatshirt so tight my knuckles turn white. What are you mumbling? she says and I shake my head. Even if I had continued to believe in her, I know Mary could not do jack shit for me now. Lindsay offers me her arms but I turn away and walk up the steps onto the Greyhound bus. From my seat I can see her standing just where I left her, waving wildly. She looks ridiculous. I hate my girlfriend. I wish she would hate me too, but she just stands there waving like a mom sending her kid off to school. She won’t even be angry that I didn’t kiss her goodbye. And if she is, she’ll get over it too soon. Her gray sweatshirt is puckered up tight around her face and her little white cheeks are turning pink from the cold > b: in shares to each of < My mom always told me the rich are stingy. It’s how they keep the wealth among themselves, they know how to hold on. For the first six months that Lindsay and I dated I did not even know she owned a car. She was always asking, and I was always giving her rides in my ’88 Cutlass with old license plates welded over the rust holes. The night I saw the sleek European machine waiting for her in the basement garage, I felt hollowed out, breathless. I don’t like to drive it too much, she explained. And now she needs me to tell them. To tell my people about her. Three years, she says, we’ve been dating for three years. Like that’s some kind of universal tipping point. She has lain waiting all these years like something slick and black and now I am supposed to pull her out. I am supposed to explain and pave the way so that she can see where it is I come from. She wants to meet them face to face > c: in or through the midst of: surrounded by < In the third grade I asked Tina Weinshotzer why she hated me. Catholic, she said, pointing out the school bus window to the five-foot statue of the Virgin Mary that my mom had roped to the roof of our house among the weathervanes and cable antennas. When I asked her what the difference was she told me you all pray to Mary but we talk to Jesus face to face > d: through the joint action of < The Greyhound driver leans out the door of the bus and yells across the parking lot at a group of women in puffy jackets and tight jeans, laughing and gossiping beside brightly painted low riders. When they speak their breath comes out in frosty vaporous clouds that hang among their faces.  What Lindsay doesn’t get is that in my town the women will kill you slowly with words and with lack of words. Deprivation mostly, no more standing in the aisle of the Super K laughing, no more getting tipsy together after the kids are in bed. If you tell them something like that, you’re on your own. They already think I’m a stranger. Ever since I moved to Chicago they tell me my words sound funny > e: in the presence or company of < The bus jerks and jumps and rolls out of the parking lot. I twist the strap of my backpack in my hands and stare up at the rooftops, neon signs and pillars of brightly lit windows. I asked my mom once about what Tina Weinshotzer said and my mom just smiled. She pulled me close and led me outside into the purpling evening air and pointed up to Mary statue, spot-lit above our heads. Hail Mary, full of grace, she said, squeezing my hand excitedly, blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb >