We are rehearsing a play in which the man
may or may not have raped the woman. I get in
my co-star’s parked car to run lines. He moves
the car deeper into the mall parking lot. “Let’s talk
about the difference between rape and not-rape,” he says.
“Hell no,” I say. I run the dark streets. The rain is sheets
flapping in a wind. My costume flies behind me. Beached
on the sidewalk ahead is a gray seal, belly up and shiny.
I kneel next to him. “Can I give you a seal kiss?” the seal
asks me. “Yes,” I say. He puckers his whiskery lips
and sucks on my arms and shoulders. It does not hurt.
We come to an odd quiet stopping point and he unzips
his back to peel down the top of his seal suit. It is an old
friend I haven’t seen in years. A woman comes to tell me
my daughter is napping on the rail of a balcony above us.
As I run to save her I say to myself
I am being the best mom I can be.

Nicole Brooks is an MFA candidate at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. She just completed her tenure as the Poetry Editor of Booth and works in media relations at Purdue University.