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Origin Story Trapped in Neon Lights

Here there are no rules. You take graphite-stained
fingers and trail them through the punch bowl, call
this sin. Darling, you awoke to your body missing 
this morning, lips sewn shut. Couldn’t even enjoy 
spiked punch even if you wanted to, can’t recognize
your reflection trapped at the bottom of a glass
bowl, illuminated by bluish red light. As a child, 
you always stole sweets at midnight, whined as your 
teeth yearned for more in the morning. Instead, 
you were served bland eggs, no salt and runny 
yolk, with slightly singed toast. Those days, a refusal 
to eat warranted violence, a strike across the face. 
Now you can’t even eat, smile like a poorly sewn 
puppet to passing strangers. They don’t smile back. 
They never do. You wish you could spit in the punch 
instead. Sweet things are meant to be devoured, 
not looked at. You always held parties for one, 
invited family ghosts into the bedroom for tea— 
sipped the bitter liquid alone all day with a still 
ouija board. Mother loved big parties— it is there
you gather as much light, swallow what you can. 
It is there you disappear with desserts, tuck them
under your dress for imaginary friends. Your mother
used to pinch your cheeks and called you sweet.
She always looked at you funny, said no man
would ever want a woman like this. This house
didn’t believe in love, only magic tricks, shadow
puppets stealing all light in the stratosphere.

 

montage: in summertime

it is cicada season & we listen to 2Pac
on the boombox in our bikinis.
We drink too-sweet guava juice, moan
as the sticky liquid drips onto our thighs, eat
buttered rotisserie chickens with basil
for lunch and vanilla ice cream cones
for dinner. Search the mouse traps
around the bar next door at sundown,
collect discarded cicada shells around
Momma’s tomato garden. Newspapers
line chipped picnic tables, blue crabs &
stained wooden mallets lay out in messy
rows. As children, on trips to the beach,
we took handfuls of sand & made me wait
as you built a castle next to our mother’s
beach chair. I destroyed it, watched grains
flit into the ocean but you smiled,
grabbed a fistful of sand, & said this wasn’t
the end. A boy once said that to me, after
promising we were friends. He disappeared
before summer began. I never liked
boys anyways, but I won’t forget that.
The brushing of hands, summer, somewhere
in suburbia. It smells like crabs, freshly cut grass,
& the Chesapeake. We still find sand in
between our toes, weeks after our trip, but
now see cicada shells in the mouse traps,
mice in the garden. To cope, we lie upside down
on the lawn chairs with our books,
pretend we’re Alice falling down the hole.
Because there’s nothing stopping us,
no one can tell us what to do—

 

image: Eve Ettinger


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