OF THE WIDE OCEAN AND ITS SHALLOWNESS
There are an unquantified number of stops. One knows a train is passing by the streak of warm light from its windows. Sometimes a young girl sits inside, not looking out. She twists a pink ticket stub in her lap, her head dropping to her chest. She is trying to stay awake. She is waiting for her stop to be announced. The train passes through water and though the sound is beautiful, the girl doesn’t turn. She looks at her knees. She looks at the soot that blackens the tiny fissures of her skin. An empty suit sits beside her. There is a hole in the suit where a man’s head might be. It inclines slightly toward her, as if speaking. The girl does not acknowledge the suit, and it moves away. A mask rests in mid-air on her other side, where a man’s face might be. The girl ignores the mask and the mask ignores the girl. She is unmoved by the solemn brightness of the carriage. She has no time for adornment. To converse with shadows, she tells herself, one must oneself become a shade.
Katy Perry queues up & I’m one of the girls, inglorious pretty even out of makeup. I lift my hands like I’m trailing chiffon from a drop-top. Not this dim basement club where my heels come off the floor with a sound like ripping fabric. Not this sugary plastic bottle fizz, lagoon blue doesn’t even wet the throat. Not these sprawling limbs, by turns familiar & disloyal. These hips don’t lie; everything else does.
My girlfriends dance like dudes, knees bent shoulders back cock forward. I turn & fold at the waist. I wear honesty backwards for Demi Lovato, tip-toe to the bar for the flex in my calves. In the bathroom I do bumps of coke off my house key, finger a hole in the baggie, rail the dregs lint & all. I leave the stall door open, wait for a look to loiter that second too long.
The next day I remember a beard against my face my hands in his hair him on his knees. The cop on the street parsing my face—just drunk, right?—& my girlfriends frogmarching me home, wrists crossed, small protests I can walk I can walk fuck you I can walk. Grazed hands knees cheekbones. Here I am: Spring Break Forever, taxi afterglow, blood grit bruises on a body only sometimes mine.
Changing the subject feels like losing, so I thread myself into text. This is a misuse of the messaging medium, like fucking is a misuse of our bodies. He goes quiet when I ask questions I shouldn’t: sends pictures of cats, Taylor Swift mashups, Marvel movie trivia.
He’s suave with misdirection—a painted toe, disappearing behind a silk screen. Meanwhile I go on like an 80s power ballad. Too long. The only way I can hold my tongue is between finger and thumb.
I’m scared that beauty only thrives when it refuses utility. I walk in wide daylight with smudged eyes and a stolen umbrella, collecting double-takes like dropped dollar bills. I try to tally the boys who beat him to me. I make lists of their names, then confetti of the lists.
I think this is not what a person does.
I think I am brimming at the mouth with blossom.
I think, with my thumbs poised above ghost emoji, bear emoji, if there is a beautiful way to die, this is it.
Kit Emslie lives in Tuscaloosa, where they are an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama. Their work has appeared in Indiana Review, NANO Fiction, and PANK, among others. With Caroline Crew, Kit is the author of YOUR STUPID FORTUNE GIVES ME STUPID HOPE (Furniture Press Books, 2014).
Photo by Franck Michel