It wasn't the dark alley surrounded by the murder of crows that told me that my life was on the brink of its existence, but rather the cool press of the blade against my ribs and the vice-like grip the stranger had on my oh so breakable neck. The bones in my neck would break and crumble, like the crackers my mom used to spread peanut butter on after school.
(The crackers and peanut butter were before, of course, the seances and dried herbs and astrology. I don’t remember any particular snack after that began.)
The knife cut into my ribs slightly, but enough to cause a thin stream of blood to slide down my stomach. Maybe it won’t be my neck that kills me after all, maybe I’ll be gutted and left to die in a pool of my own organs.
(My mother used to believe the soul was in the liver not the heart because it’s such a smooth, comparatively beautiful organ. Imagine how many poems and songs would be ruined if you replaced the word heart with liver.)
“Do as I say, or your family will never find your body.”
Not a promise that he won’t kill me if I do what he wants.
His hands are on my neck and my hands are on his, my palms and fingers scraping across the back of his cracked hand.
“Ok, I’ll do it, I’ll go where you want…”
Did you know that I used to drink chocolate milk every night? In a sippy cup, a purple one with squishy plastic handles for me to hold onto. Even when I was 8 or 9, too old for a sippy cup. This is what I would tell him if I had the bravery, so that my last words aren’t submissive and sad.
(My mother read me my horoscope every day and today it said I would lack bravery, but it would be ok)
The birds are watching all this, but they don’t do anything because they are only birds and also very cowardly. I make eye contact with one and it tilts its head.
(My mother and I used to talk to birds and they would talk back. Though not recently, around the time I was still drinking chocolate milk at night. Before braces and bubblegum-pink music and English essays about Who I Was.)
The grip tightens on my neck. “I need you to write the ransom note.”
Tears pool on the cracks under his hands as they fall down my face and neck. I gasp out an agreement.
I press the paper to the alley wall, a flat surface to write on. One hand still around my neck, and the knife tip now right on my back. I have to scratch the pen a little bit to make it work, so there are scribbled swirls on the top right corner. The pen loops out a shaky letter, word-for-word what he tells me. No hidden messages.
(My mother told me that if you tap your veins three times and then say a message, the person you love most in the world will receive it. I don’t know who would receive my message.)
Something scared him. I don’t know what, maybe the rustle of a junkie that he thought might be a cop. Or maybe it was the plan all along, make me write my own ransom note and then kill me anyway.
There’s a knife in me now. There’s a knife in me and blood on the scribbled paper and I crumple as easily as aluminum foil.
(My mother said angels come to take you away when you die. People you know who have already passed on, even pets.)
A crow flies down from the top of the apartment building and stands on one side of me with its tilted head. Soft feathers brush my arm.