You enjoy that week-old lollipop she gave you, its residual sugary film cradling your molars in what she imagines you find to be a comforting embrace. You were a wreck five minutes ago, sour tears forging paths down your swollen cheeks, diving into the folds of your bib—surely she is thankful for this shift in your mood. It’s unclear if she is anticipating the approaching lull of your eyelids, but when your green irises cease to pierce hers, she responds adequately (frustratingly so).
It was a mere four seconds you were with me, on me, your face embedded in my fiery skin, yet the barren patches of misery stitched along the length of my body recognize that you were really with me for many long months before—ever-present, never forgettable. Every fiber of fatigue, every chalky breath of emptiness aches for your being, your painful warmth coating my intestines.
You uselessly masticate a piece of food she provided for you, the substance much too hard for your unassuming shards of teeth to combat. I remember my original discomfort with you; I resented you and the things you’d done to me. When I’d stand, a cold, metallic taste would scrape the back of my throat, blackness itching at the corners of my eyes. Flavor became a sting of irritation and sunlight became intrusive, an obstacle between 8 AM and a nap on the train. You represented my hatred for my body, which, once soft and purposeful, was now lopsided and rife with tufts of sorrow in all the wrong places. You argued with me, too, made your existence known—a deft elbow to the pelvis now and again to remind me that I, too, was cramping your style.
You needed me and I needed you but we didn’t want each other and then suddenly we did and then suddenly we couldn’t.
Now a window is all that separates you and me, yet the glass shrieks in my ear and seduces me and shuts me out and claws at my collarbone with brittle fingernails of stone. I can’t need you like I once did, but I do and I can’t not. She sighs as you open your lips and deposit a robust stream of dribble onto her sleeve; she chuckles but pulls away as you attempt to trap a fistful of her hair between your sticky palms. She doesn’t know what it’s like to part with you (a true departure), so she can back away so casually like that.
I’d never known a pane of glass to pierce so hard with pain so numb.
It was the most acidic of goodbyes, your tender flesh peeled off mine in a blood-soaked pool of frenzy. Too many hands were extended towards you before I could lift my own, reeling from having her and losing her (and realizing it) all at once. I didn’t know where she was and I wished it didn’t matter—my chest, throbbing, yearning for you, wished it was as important as hers.
Too many years later, residual pulled pork finds a home in the back of your mouth, nestled beneath your gums. You are now much too old to have enjoyed the meal so greatly, but no one would mention it (myself in particular). You know what they’re thinking, of course, but feigning ignorance brings you joy; they perceive you to be unaware anyway, and plus, it gives you a momentary escape. (You find ways to cram two-second increments of falsely hopeful oblivion into your packed schedule of a lifetime of failing to prove yourself.) You find it increasingly difficult to forgive the general public as a whole when one imbecile says something in their trademark doltish fashion; this excites you greatly.
You aren’t tired of knowing what you can’t do—you’re tired of people thinking they’re the first to tell you. In fact, you revel in the opportunity to ponder the unaccomplished. (It gives you hope, the concept of more.) Your state of daydreaming has graduated from naiveté to exhilarating mundanity; the imaginary smell of Norwegian flowers has been replaced with the image of your doorstep and the greatly exciting possibility that I trip over it on her way in the house. When you think about it hard enough, the doorstep begins to feel as exotic as Norway.
Strangers’ eyes are your best friends. They’ve grown comforting to you, slowly enveloping you in the only thing you’ve know to be reliable: shockingly unconcealed public stares. For you, there wasn’t a time without them, and you’ve learned that though people are unpredictable, their stares (those sneaky bastards) will always manage to weasel their way into your life. They’re never far away, either—always around the corner is a crossing guard or a shirtless fat man taking a jog or a briefcase-toting businessperson jutting their chin out or a twenty-something mother with a low-cut top and her baby on her hip or a preschool teacher. You manage to find the magic in the scrutinizing pupils that persistently tap on your shoulder (like the irritating classmate you wish you had). Your favorite type of eyes is brown and jittery, looking you up and down and daring to exchange glances, if only for a second.
I have flat eyes the color of forgotten pool water that slap you across the face on my way out of the room. (It seemsto you that I’m always exiting; my entrances are far less memorable overall.) Mommy Dearest doesn’t need to fill the void with meaningless mumbles, so I don’t. You know what I’m thinking anyway.
Mirrors don’t agree with you, but you envision your own eyes to be limpid yet brimming with angst. (You’ve been told they are a scratchy green; you ignore this gleefully.) This is how you would like to be perceived, and you hope your eyes do you justice by telling wonderful stories to those who have the courage to meet them.
I see myself in your broken metal eyes, but I know you wish I didn’t.