Written by Thanisha Chowdhury
Art by Lars Bo Nielsen

  1. Wake up and spread the curtains far enough that you can pretend that your outstretched arms are wings. This is how it feels to repent, the birds outside your window will gasp.
  2. Brush your teeth after a hearty breakfast of cereal boxes and Sunday cartoons. Tie your shoelaces with chapped fingers as your mother watches both you and the television. Try not to cut your knees on her gaze.
  3. Pluck dandelions from the cracks in the sidewalk and shove them into the waistband of your jeans, dirt, grass, and all.
  4. Walk circles around the cemetery as the vultures do the same hundreds of feet above. They’re less like the morning birds and more like you: thin-haired, thin-spined, thin-voiced. Make sure you wean the rhythm from your steps; the families in black tend to stare if you linger too long.
  5. Eventually your shoes will run out of soil to avoid. Do anything but read them. 
  6. Once upon a time he thought he could save the world. He pinned his dreams onto the walls of his bedroom, dusted each of them with his sleeves every morning. Where the birds shrieked at me, they sang to him. Behind his face, storms churned.   
  7. Once upon a time you thought you could save him. Sometime after the first time you found him with his fingers curled around a razor, his throat fell from between his shoulders and from then on he was an echo of his own voice. He died piece by piece, you think, more than all at once. Sometimes you still find pieces of him if you look carefully (or if you don’t) from where he leaked out through the faults in his skin.
  8. Try to cry. Fail. Cry, this time not because you’re sad for him, but because you’re angry at yourself. People will start to notice you there.
  9. When the vultures speak to you, don’t answer. 
  10. (you could have helped him stopped him saved him) 
  11. Don’t answer. 
  12. Stay until the sun dips and rises once, or at least until the ground softens a bit under your feet. The world will quiet down and for a moment it will just be you. You and him.
  13. Don’t try to find something to say. Your tongue will dry out. It’s okay. There’s not always something to be said. 
  14. He’ll reach up with the wind and push your hat down over your eyes. 
  15. You know it’s rude to stare, kid. And lean in when something comes to rest on your shoulder, because before you take a breath, it’ll be gone. It’ll be over. 
  16. Leave. Leave the graveyard and the vultures, the kicked-up dirt and heavy wind. Leave the husk-hearted families and the shallow footprints. Leave the thin-necked dandelions on your dead brother’s grave, stems still dented from where they laid against your hipbone.