by Caitlyn Kinsella
you were supposed to be in england, but now you’re in quarantine, and life has shrugged off its last stitch of reality, a scarf falling to the floor. you spend weeks awake too early, missing summer in athens, dinner at midnight and gin under liquid sun. miss the easy rhythm of poetry, the afternoon of your body thrown into the hills to bake like bread. miss the breeze which was rare—coveted—an allusive lover. miss the time before you realized how allusive a lover you are.
your isolation ends, reality tries to pick up again, and you do not have the energy to emerge from bed, but you must. you do. because you don’t really hurt, because if you get dressed, teach math, and cook heartache into eggplant, maybe grief will lift and you will stop wanting to curl into a ball, stop swallowing unrest rising in your throat.
you aren’t dead, but you want to write an obituary. want to write every single thing down so you can stop feeling it. a ribcage grew around your hope, when you were eating clementines and licking your palms in parks, but misunderstandings break bones, so you abandon words.
after ordering bookshelves, you sit on the floor and try not to cry, because furniture means permanence, and you’re still trying to leave this place. still keeping a tally of the places your feet were meant to land this year, countries evaporated in southern heat. and missing is nausea, or maybe nausea is too much caffeine on an empty stomach and you’re making too much of everything, because weren’t you always a little melodramatic?
but you would have had curly-haired children, with dark eyes and telling faces, who took
everything like an insult, like the world was painting on their skin without permission. like everything that happened was happening to them, personally. bewildered, because they didn’t know it could hurt like this, that loneliness could invade like water to sink the ship.
you are meant to be writing a thesis, about how bodies are essential to souls, but you can’t face anything blank but walls. you tell a friend you’d like to unzip your skin, fold it up neatly, and put it to rest in the freezer. on the face of it because you’re sunburned, but at the dermis layer you mean i’d like to abandon my body, please, someone take it from me.
you are accused by someone you love of trying to sanitize everything, but in this tapestry of longing, you have found love to be like pitching yourself down a set of stairs, then demanding why every inch of you hurts, why you’re bleeding, why your teeth are lying behind you like a trail of regret, and why can't you take it back, unmake it all, start again with a clean world.
your bookshelves arrive and life goes on and you blush over too much wine and try to prepare to live here, inside wherever here is, and to be fine when you say you’re fine.
deadlines creep closer, and emails come in from people who “love” what you’ve written and want to see more. and you’re supposed to be happy, because this is the way life moves forward, this is what all the years you’ve accumulated are meant to add up to. and if you’re meant to be happy, why do people keep telling you to please stop being miserable? your texts are going unanswered, but your professional life is moving forward, focus on that. concentrate on the piles of manuscripts beside your bed, the people who want you in a literary capacity.
you keep thinking about the friend who went to greece and ended up with urchin spines in his foot. how you did the same thing, that you said ow when it happened, because you were sixteen and your mouth didn’t fit around fuck. you keep thinking that you would give all this agent interest for a text from this not-quite-lover, and you’re old enough now for fuck.
if you refuse to play, is it the same as refusing to be alive? and if you’re on the floor of the shower because of a migraine, instead of your feelings, does that make it less depressing?
it’s so much harder to lose someone when they carry the secrets of your soul in the lining of their pockets. when they said, you know you can talk to me, and you finally did, and neither of you knew how to wedge the new sliver of knowing into the framework of your existence.
and you have always been suspicious of people who write about other people, who wash nuance away by telling only one side of the story. the day he found you crying, and you couldn’t tell him why, it was because it would have erased someone else’s privacy. if you could make absolutions and pray him back––but you do not pray for desire.
instead, you move books from the floor to their new shelves. you acquaint yourself with this bundle of sorrow––you never learn quickly, and unlearning takes even longer. and you hate the i of memoir, because there is no distinct other, there are only your hands, busy pressing against the leaks––glue, tape, prayers, and safety pins scattered on the stairs. you’ve picked out a shovel to bury the children. every time you encounter a scrap of something, you want to build it a future.
Caitlyn Kinsella is an itinerant bibliophile and lover of long words. Her fiction has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Sonora Review, The Pinch, Litro Magazine, Washington Square Review, and The Drum Literary Magazine. She can currently be found on the American East Coast, or roaming about London, haunting cafés and working on a novel.
— Jared Berberabe
"People were chasing and shouting after him, but he paid them no mind. He could not gain any distance closer to the figure, yet Yano couldn’t tell if it was even running in the first place. It seemed, rather, to float with impossible dexterity over every obstacle, and always out of his reach."