keep art alive; art by james jean
a small excerpt of an adolescence
dark black swirls around in spiral s’s and y’s spin down the bathroom sink drain. the clock reads 6:53 p.m. while ‘the perfect way’ trickles in and out of sound grasp. my head dunks in and out, as the faucet begins to run cold.
how long have I been in here?
how long have i been rinsing and repeating?
how long has my mind been re-tracing the past four years of hell and high-water, or just high school?
they say this is where the story ends, or begins (who are they, anyway?).
and, here i am. hair dangling and dripping down my neck, my shoulders. black as midnight, as death, as mom would say. but my cheeks are flushed red as cherry pie. the steam overtaking the room, it nearly suffocates me, drawing me into a dizzy, dreamlike haze. i like the look of me this way, foggy. the effect is almost like staring out into the world with squinted eyes. i’m there somewhere, in all the shadows and black outlines. blurred. i think i like my life a little bit out of focus; upside down, misplaced.
he was supposed to call tonight. we had outfits to discuss, and a sanity plea. he said he had things to be spoken, bled out in words and music; we both know how to blend the two, how to weave together lyrics and language. it makes sense to us. underwater i can’t really hear the lack of ringing, with the music on i can pretend to just drown. to drift away. i can block out the rumors that i try (and fail) at ignoring. people like to talk about everything, don't they? lies are so appealing. but no one knows us, none of us, not really.
i want to wear his t-shirt tonight, i want to sleep in it. the one with the fins painted on them, on the back, from the night we'd snuck back into the theatre building. it helps to be a teacher’s pet sometimes, i'd pointed out. all those good grades and mocking echoes, well, they got us in that night, didn't they? sitting backstage on the dusty floor, side by side, our knees touching.
"make me magic, louise. turn me into something beautiful".
and i did. paint stained my hands, glitter and make-up. i tore up costume dresses and fashioned them into wings. we sketched wings on my jacket, fins on your shirt. it was all splashed colors, arms and legs, and lips. we stopped being bodies, even, becoming just some kind of molecular beings that needed to be intertwined. ‘boys don’t cry’ was playing in the background.
i stopped hearing the music now, only scratches, and then nothing but air. silence is always too heavy, too laden with expectation and unknown. no one is back home yet, there are still so many hours to go. yet as i open the door i feel footsteps. i sense the eys, the hands. a shallow knot of not being able to breathe hangs in the back of my throat, and settles deep in my chest. cold zigzag lines of water slip under the towel's edge, snaking down my now arched back. everything seems to be moving slowly, languidly, painfully so. the water is almost tickling me, taunting me, trying to distract my fear. but, then i feel the eyes again - and breathing (is that me? is it someone else?)
my room seems miles away. the long hallway stretches out in front of me, growing exponentially, like in those saturday morning cartoons. but, i know which way the mallet lands, and i know i won't get back up this time.