Riss Rosado (Oakland, CA)


I remember the chill of cement on my shoulder blades.

I was up to 34; 34 days in an unfinished basement with cement floors.

The window, sealed bullet-proof glass, offered no clues as to where my keeper had decided to leave me, but one day I noticed it was raining, and I wondered when I would smell rain-soaked earth again. The rain threw me off. I stopped counting the days of my imprisonment.


My keeper is quiet and kind (aside from, of course, knocking me unconscious on my way home and imprisoning me in a basement). They hide their features with ski mask that has seen some shit; it has a halo of pilling fuzz. I wonder how many have seen it in these circumstances. I wonder what happens next.


The first in a series of three deadbolts slides open.


They’re here.


I can’t even reach the door but three deadbolts nonetheless.


They descend the stairs with the weight of someone who’s had a hard day. I imagine them, my faceless, stoic keeper, hustling county inhabitants for donations, or mopping floors in a high school overrun with spoiled children. Whatever the gig, it runs them ragged. I can see it in their shoulders.


I wonder if they have any friends or family. Do you think they talk about me? Am I a big enough part of their life that I warrant mentioning?


I wonder this because I can’t make out any conversations overhead, nor do I see anyone but my keeper.


If they’re alone, why won’t the talk to me?


I gave up talking to myself on day 17. I got on my nerves.


They’re setting the table for dinner. We eat breakfast and dinner together, on opposite ends of this long, plastic folding table, in complete silence. Learning their rules was tricky. I cracked jokes, asked questions, cried a bunch when I first got here, but they offered no reply. Aside from eye contact we don’t communicate at all. I’m not restrained in any way, but I don’t think I’d hug them because I sort of resent them for keeping me here. They don’t hurt me.


The smell of rosemary and sage breaks my focus; it’s roast chicken. My mother used the same combination on the ones she made. I wonder if I’ll ever see her again.


We take our seats.


My keeper raises their glass, I follow suit. Our silent toast brings me joy; routine in this timeless bunker. I savor the sounds of silverware against ceramic.


I steal a glance at my keeper. Even with the ski mask I can tell they are crying. I hope they feel better.


Riss Rosado is bad with names but still wants to know yours. They write poetry, prose, short stories, and hand-written letters. They have featured at Red Light Lit, Get Lit, You’re Going to Die and more. They love a good cry and have been published in sPARKLE & bLINK, Be About It, and the East Bay Review.