Ravi Mangla

This was before the valley filled with snow and loneliness was a sinking weight, before she started sleeping on the floor and shivering at your every touch, before the dog crawled under the fence and the pickup wouldn’t start; this was before they dumped waste in the lake and those campers went missing in the woods, before a man with a bag of snakes said he could fix the weakness in you and before you fell for a series of women who would never love you back; this was before they booked you for driving on the sidewalk and slotted you in a tiny cell, before an errant pool ball knocked loose your two front teeth and before the realization of death ever kept you awake into the night; this was before your mother ran off with a dentist and your father asked you to top off his drink, before the kitchen caught fire and the babysitter fondled you in the tub; this was before a girl stuck gum in your hair and before you stepped in wet cement, before a teacher ever stopped you in the hallway and asked you to stay after class; this was before your grandmother slipped down those stairs and shattered her hip and before your brother was born premature, failing to make it through the night; this was before all that, when you were standing outside with your mother, standing in a thinning rain, and your mother said, There are two kinds of people in the world: those who linger on the injustices of the past and those who are truly alive. Which kind do you want to be?

Ravi Mangla is the author of UNDERSTUDIES, a short novel. He lives in Fairport, New York.

Read more of his work in the archive.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Maggie Osterberg.

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