Written by Thanisha Chowdhury
Art by David Menidrey
1. soap bubbles
We’re washing dishes, elbow to skinned elbow in the stuffy diner, somewhere between neon and translucent. It doesn’t matter that we’ll get fired in three weeks for sneaking scraps to the dogs out back because you’ve got dish soap on the corner of your grin and I’m beginning to think that if this is the cleanest we’ll ever get that’d be okay.
2. asteroids in the kuiper belt
There are galaxies hanging from your ceiling and every time I sleep over I watch them swing back and forth under the breath of the AC. Mars is hanging from its string funny, and Pluto’s too big to be a not-planet, but now you’re shoving your knee in my face and yelling at me to go to sleep. We stay up four more hours laughing about things that don’t matter. How many planets do you think we could fit between our fingers? Would it matter if they melted at our touch? Do you think we could catch them before they hit the ground thousands of miles below?
I stare at the ceiling for hours after your mom calls me in tears and I try to materialize a Jupiter out of the cracked plaster. It’s barely been a day but you’re already long gone and everything you left behind and everything you didn’t is settling in the lattice flesh of my lungs. If I stay here long enough, I’ll melt my skin to dust and weave it into the walls. I’ll molt into someone who never knew you. You’ll tell me if it hurts, won’t you?
4. posters on the guidance counselor’s wall
I sit on my hands because I’m afraid they’ll fall off if I don’t and they turn to toffee against the permanently-cold chair. I wonder how much more colorful I’d be if it were all as easy as: Take a deep breath! Did you show gratitude today? Remember to go to your happy place! I could twist my face into a smile and case it in a plastic sheen. Maybe then people’d look at me like I was something that wasn’t a puzzle without half its pieces.
I let myself breathe for the first time today and it smelled like the sea. It smelled like sundresses and being born anew. My mom’s garden isn’t as soft as your bed but I can almost make out bubbles in the clouds, because in the end that’s what we all are, right? Just somethings that look like other somethings and don’t mean anything except what we speak into them.
I’m beginning to think we’re less stardust and more patchwork, more checkered with each other and everything we’ve touched along the way. Less here and more scattered wherever we’ve grazed our hands or shoes. I’ll take care of what I have left of you if you do the same for me. I won’t lose it this time, I swear.