In this section:
My Garden by Sarah Wendy Burman ’22
Alcohol and Assigned Reading by Katherine Rabogliatti ’21
Lice by Maggie Erwin ’23
How to Deal with Cold Feet by Lily Wancewicz ’23
Central Mountain Range, Taiwan by Deborah Jang ’24
Nature’s Cycles by Diana Salinas ’24
meditations on an eggy sticky summer by Aniela Cohig ’24
Sarah Wendy Burman
These days I spend most of my free hours (which are many) in my garden.
It is a small garden—two beds and one big pot—but it is full of life.
It is made of roofing nails and boards from an old deck and dirt that I carried up hills in a wheelbarrow and stakes that I drove into the ground with all my weight.
There are worms in it. Handfuls of worms. Big ones and small ones and things with little flailing legs that aren’t worms at all. And sometimes there are moths and frogs too.
And in it I have planted seeds of every color and texture and shape. Seeds that lie heavy in your palm like small nuggets of gold and seeds so fine they blow away if you don’t hold your breath. Seeds that I planted early in soil that froze my fingers and seeds that I nursed in egg cartons until all the snow had melted away and the nights were mild and full of crickets.
People pass by me and my garden on their walks, and they like to stop and inquire after its progress.
“How is everything growing?”
It works well for both of us—a way for them to ask about me without asking about me. Steering clear of the question no one wants to ask these days. Exchanging the usual niceties without having to fear an answer more worrying than:
“Doing fine. How about you?”
Afraid, perhaps, of the question being turned back on them, forcing them to consider their own (perhaps less steady than usual) well-being. Afraid that the thin veneer of custom will have grown brittle and cracked from disuse, like the skin of a parched tomato. Afraid that they might let something else slip instead, something more burdensome, something more true.
And so they ask about the garden.
And I find myself defensive of my small world, wanting to shield tender leaves from prying questions and invasive eyes.
How dare they look. How dare they ask.
What if they criticize the beets for wilting in the sun, or find fault with the radishes planted in wiggly rows, or look down upon that one squash that popped up between two rows of kale, or pass judgement on the smaller peas that haven’t quite figured out how to climb their trellis yet?
What if they read something etched into the crinkled leaves of the cucumbers? What if the worms give out the secrets I’ve told only to them?
They don’t know what the lettuce is whispering, or how much sun the parsley wants, or who the thyme was planted for.
An urge arises in me to provide justification for every little imperfection:
“The lettuce seeds are from 2016, see, so you can’t really blame them for not all sprouting.”
“Those beans were just transplanted yesterday, so they’re still a bit floppy, but they’ll perk up soon.”
“It’s okay for the basil to be bunched like that, it likes to grow in clumps.”
And I want to shut them out of my garden, of my soul.
But I watch them pass by, and I see how their eyes stray towards my small oasis, craning their necks for one glimpse of bright leaves or sturdy, reaching stalks.
And I see the hoping, the wanting to gaze upon something that is flourishing, something that is happy. The desire to behold neat orderly rows of happy beings all in their places, content to thrive where they are set, where they are cared for. The need to find some connection somehow, when obvious questions are perhaps too painful to ask.
And so they stop and they peer and they ask: “How is everything growing?
And I tell them, as best I can.
“The second crop of radishes has just sprouted.”
(the other day i saw a horse! it’s been so long since i’ve seen a horse.)
“And the kale is so prolific, I had no idea so many of them would grow.”
(i’ve been making so many masks, i don’t seem to know how to stop.)
“The beans are beginning to flower, and in a couple of weeks they’ll be ready to harvest. They’re going to be purple beans, did you know?”
(sometimes i can’t remember what happened just last week, like all the days are bits of wet clay melting together into one heavy gray lump.)
“I don’t exactly know where I’m going to plant the rest of the onions, the beets took up more rows than I expected.”
(at night i lie awake trying to imagine how wide the sea is, and i just can’t get it to fit in my head. the sea is so much wider than my head.)
And they listen eagerly, and perhaps they hear about the garden, and are content. And perhaps they hear something more, about hope and loss and love and waiting and why I planted the garden.
And they continue on their walk, and I continue pulling weeds from among the lettuces.
And on their way back they will pass by my garden again. And perhaps they will wave. Or, content to see that everything still grows, glance once more in our direction before turning up the road.
And the old man in the baseball cap will tell me to watch for beetles.
And the mother and daughter walking their dog will call to me as they pass:
“We’re going home to plant our tomatoes!”
And in all of their eyes I will see the hope and the loss and the waiting and the love that is the garden.
And I will smile and go back to watering the peas.
Alcohol and Assigned Reading
We had spent days, weeks, months stealing glances at one another across the room. It began that day when she wore a bright white ribbon in her hair, so bold against her dark curls. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t. She caught me staring.
Our classroom was in one of our school’s oldest buildings. We sat at old wooden desks in chairs that creaked when we moved. So inconvenient because it would inadver- tently alert the professor that someone was doing something they shouldn’t. Like shift- ing in their seat to peer over the edge of their book at the pretty girl across the room, or surreptitiously scribbling love letters that would never be sent.
Sometimes, I traced the edges of the words that had been gouged into the desk’s surface by generations of students past. L + E forever one read. Who were “L” and “E”? Did they, too, exchange glances across this very room? I imagined their lives, their court- ship. L would pass notes to E who would smile, face lighting up. E would write one back, asking L to meet them after class under the willow next to the lake. More than once, my professor would catch me too obviously staring off into the distance and bring me sharply back down to earth. She would bang on my desk, shout my name, and—one unpleasantly memorable occasion—she hit my arm.
None of that stopped me. I daydreamed about “L” and “E,” and I stared at the girl across the room. I could carve our initials into the desk someday.
I was sure we loved each other, even during those first silent months of our ac- quaintance (if you could even call it that). When we finally spoke, it was to ask a question here or there. It progressed to offers of study help, then to ‘do you want to get something to eat,’ and, finally, to ‘do you want to spend the night.’
That night, we drank and discussed Frankenstein. Alcohol and the assigned book seemed a good combination. Then, I kissed her. A random, impulsive decision. Like something overcame me, caused me to lean forward, press my lips against hers. Her mouth was warm against mine. She must feel the same way I do. But she didn’t kiss back. She recoiled and the air was filled with my frantic apologies. An assumption, an incorrect one. Whatever I did, I couldn’t bear to lose her friendship.
She shifted away. We’d been sitting on the sofa in my room, an old thing that my mother had unloaded on me. It creaked like our desk chairs. Silence between us, heavy and tangible. She wouldn’t look at me, the curls of her dark hair hid her face as she kept her eyes fixed on the book in her hands.
I just…wanted her to look at me. My muttered ‘sorries’ became like a prayer I repeated to her. Yet she wouldn’t look at me.
No more glances across the classroom after that night. No more requests for study help, or to eat together, and certainly no more late-night invitations.
Man, I hate lice. I really detest them. Pediculus humanus capitis. Roughly two or three millimeters long, about the size of the seeds atop an everything bagel. Preferred hosts humans. Vile organisms. Wicked even. About six to 12 million people are treated for lice in the United States per year. And every year I encounter about ten of those unfortunate victims: my fourth-grade students.
Every September it’s the same. The lice just can’t wait to bury themselves in human hair. And every year their bloodthirst befalls a handful of particularly unrestricted nine-year olds. I know almost immediately. By now, I have the trained eye of an expert. The nurse is called. I stay late with the janitor to vacuum compromised hairs from the carpet. My answering machine fills up with calls from concerned parents. “Yes, we’re doing everything we can.” Or, “No, they’re not life-threatening.” They want to know who is responsible, as if they can assuage disgust with blame.
Soon enough, I am in aisle five of the grocery store, staring up at a shelf of Skippy peanut butter. When I arrive home, I set the peanut butter on the table. I scoop it out of the jar with two fingers, dropping dollops on my head. Strands of hair clump together like a failed interpretation of 1990s Gwen Stefani. Peanut butter feels a lot like conditioner. However, it smells like, well, peanut butter. I apply gingerly, making sure to cover the entirety of my scalp. In previous years I tried chemical treatments, only to end up losing half my hair or nursing an allergic reaction. For days I reek of a child’s lunchbox. I stay home on weekends. I cancel dates. “I’m sick. No, it’s not serious. No—yeah, it’s just a bug.” One year I went so far as to shave my head, the only true cure. By now, I’ve invested in a good lice comb. I’m convinced the wretched nymphs that crawl along my scalp know how much I despise them. Because every year they come back with malicious intent.
When the next PTA meeting comes, disgruntled parents pack the small auditorium. They exchange pleasantries like generals, shaking hands before battle. Then the questions come, the demands. They look around, ready to strike on unassuming staff. When I am asked how this can be prevented next year, I think about retiring. I’m 27.
How to Deal with Cold Feet
CW: blood, minor body horror, brief reference to assault
On Saturday morning it rains and Nora sleeps through three alarms and the first thirty minutes of her advanced ballet technique class. It’s almost mid-morning when she finally begins to stir. The old, matted Siamese is perched on the end of her bed, and it occasionally lets out a screechy meow, a complaint about its forgotten breakfast. Nora wakes slowly, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, yawning, nudging the cat off the side of the duvet with her toes. She can hear the rain breaking against the window, can hear the cat start taking its frustration out on the bedpost, but besides that the house is quiet. Her room is a mess, strewn with all kinds of knick-knacks: a failed trigonometry quiz, crumpled copies of Dancer’s Elite magazine, dozens of pairs of pale pink tights, coiled up like snakes. The entire floor has a thin coating of cat hair.
When Nora sits up in bed, her top sheet and duvet slip off of her upper body, and dressed in only her thin pajamas, she suddenly notices how cold it is. Nora slides out of bed, intent on grabbing a sweatshirt from her laundry heap, but she’s distracted by the pain that shoots up her feet when they collide with the hardwood. Nora’s feet look exceptionally bad this morning. They are a light purpley blue and a little splotchy, but most noticeably, the white, gauzy material that’s wrapped around both of her big toes is stained with dried blood. Most of her toenails are a little lopsided and some have chunks missing, and the toenail on her left pinky toe is completely gone. It had been dangly and digging into Nora’s skin for nearly a week before she finally built up the courage to yank off what remained of it during a break at the dance studio. The pain had been so intense that tears welled up in her eyes. There was so much blood that by the time she managed to wrap the exposed toe in a makeshift bandage of toilet paper, shove her pointe shoe back on, and hurry back to ballet class, the tip of her pink shoe was saturated with blood. The rest of the girls had politely ignored the red streaks that smeared across the floor as she moved through the dance.
The cold less unsettling than the pain in her feet, Nora sits on the floor and begins pulling off the bandage from her right big toe, wincing as her skin is tugged along with it. She tries to replace the bandages only twice a day, before dance class and after dance class, but sometimes, if she steps funny or snags the bandage against something, she has to change it an extra time. As she tugs at the bandage, she entertains the idea of going to ballet class, but almost as soon as she considers it, she knows that she won’t actually go. She can picture herself stumbling in during the middle of the class, mumbling an awkward apology to the teacher, anxiously searching for an open place to stand at the barre. She wouldn’t know whether to wait for a break in the instruction to shuffle into the room or to enter as soon as she arrives, trying to carefully weave through the other dancers, but inevitably stepping on someone’s pointe shoe or knocking into someone’s outstretched arms. It would be infinitely more safe to stay home and produce some feeble excuse on Monday for skipping.
Once Nora removes the first dirty bandage and tosses it aside, she reaches for her dance bag to pull out a replacement. But as she begins to unravel the long strip of white fabric, Nora is interrupted by the ring of the doorbell. She stands slowly, keeping her weight off of her toes, but she doesn’t make any move to go downstairs and check who’s at the door. Nora listens closely, waiting for the visitor’s footsteps to retreat back down the driveway, but they never do. Instead, the doorbell rings again and someone yells, “If anyone’s there, I need a signature for this package.” Nora still doesn’t move. She doesn’t want to go open the door—she’s still only wearing her pajamas, and she’s just begun the long process of changing her bandages. But it seems silly to send the delivery man away just because he’s come at an inconvenient time.
When she opens the front door downstairs, the delivery man is standing on the porch. He’s dressed in brown pants and a brown logoed top, and Nora places him somewhere in his late twenties. He holds a package, about the size of a shoebox, under his right arm, and in his left hand he holds a clipboard that’s wet, as if he used it to shield himself from the rain on the walk to her front door.
“I’m just gonna need a quick signature from you,” he says, extending the clipboard and a pen with the same logo as his button up. Nora scans the clipboard and scribbles her signature on the appropriate line, but when she glances up to hand the items back to the delivery man, his eyes are on her feet. She looks down at them too. She knows that they look distinctly ugly when they’re not all bandaged up. In the presence of the delivery man, Nora feels embarrassed, but it’s an unfamiliar embarrassment, a kind that she never feels at the dance studio, where the rest of the girls almost seem to flaunt their battered feet, displaying their misshapen toenails and bloody blisters like they’re something to be proud of. Nora suddenly feels the need to apologize, to assure him that she’s fine, that her feet don’t really hurt too badly. She almost starts to, but when she raises her eyes from her feet, she sees that the delivery man has also looked away.
He takes the clipboard and pen back from Nora, but before he hands her the package his eyes flick down to her feet again. This time he points at them and asks, “Hey, do you want me to take a look at those for you?”
“Oh. No, no,” she stammers, “I can take care of them. It’s not as bad as it looks.”
“Listen,” he says, “I volunteered at the athletic trainer’s office in college, so I know all kinds of techniques. I promise, if you let me take care of them for you, they’ll be as good as new.” It would be easier for Nora to just accept his offer, but she’s skeptical of his assurances. She’s been bandaging her feet up for years and none of the techniques she’s tried have worked any miracles. Besides, the whole situation reminds Nora of a news article she once read about a woman who had invited a chatty delivery man in for coffee. According to the newspaper, they had enjoyed their drinks, conversed pleasantly, and then the delivery man had taken a rubber mallet to the woman’s head.
“Okay,” she concedes. Nora steps aside, effectively welcoming this stranger into the foyer. “Wait here while I grab my stuff.”
When Nora comes back down the stairs, she is cradling an armful of medical supplies: ACE bandages, prewrap, second skin squares. The delivery man has taken a seat at the bench across from the stairs. He seems to be looking through a small pile of mail spread out on the coffee table at his side, an action that Nora finds mildly off-putting. It’s not that she really minds him reading her family’s mail (it’s probably only bills and advertisements anyway), but she knows that if she had been the one invited into someone’s home like this, she probably never would have sat down unless prompted, let alone helped herself to a stranger’s mail, at least not so overtly.
Nora sits down on the side of the bench that the delivery man isn’t occupying and deposits her stash between them. She prepares her feet for fresh dressings by rubbing off any residual stickiness from her last bandages as the delivery man combs over the pile, occasionally picking up a tube of ointment or a canister of cream and turning it over in his hand, running his fingertip along the label.
“Wow, you’ve got some seriously heavy duty stuff here,” he says as he flips over a package of blister pads to take a look at the instructions. “Most of this stuff is medical grade.”
Although Nora had to use both hands to carry the supplies downstairs, the various packages, wraps, and creams on the bench are only a fraction of her collection. Between the contents of her dance bag, her locker at the studio, and the medicine cabinet in the upstairs bathroom, Nora has so much medical paraphernalia that some of the girls at the studio like to joke that she could open her own clinic.
“Let’s start with the left one,” the delivery man says, gesturing for Nora to bring her left foot to him. Nora extends her leg in his direction with a practiced gracefulness, and he picks up her small foot in both of his hands. Nora notices for the first time that he’s wearing a pair of black fingerless gloves, like the ones robbers wear in the movies. She wants to mention this to him,
but she isn’t sure if it’s a funny thing to say or a weird thing to say. He turns her foot over in his hands, surveying the damage.
“What happened to make them look so…” He trails off and gestures towards her toes, where the damage is the worst.
“Gross?” Nora suggests.
“I was going to say painful.”
Nora smiles lightly.
“I’m a ballerina.”
“A dancer? This? From dancing?” He shakes his head a little, clearly surprised.
“That’s right.” This time, when he looks up to meet her eyes, Nora thinks that he looked a little impressed.
“And here I was thinking that ballet was all tutus and tiaras.”
Nora is pleased with how gently he handles her feet, turning each one over in his big hands, smoothing down the pre-wrap with his thumbs, flexing and pointing her toes to make sure that the tape won’t wrinkle with movement. His supposedly miracle-working techniques turn out to be nothing special, but it’s nice to have someone else do the work for once, and as he finishes wrapping her second foot and turns to face her, Nora feels glad that she pushed past her initial apprehension about welcoming him inside.
“Well, I’ve taken care of your feet for you. I think it’s fair that I ask for a little something in return.”
Nora’s heart begins to race. She could have kicked herself with her own freshly bandaged feet. Of course he would want something in return. How could she have been so naive? She can see it now, his brown pants in a heap near her laundry, her knees pressed into the cat hair on the floor of her bedroom, sucking off the delivery man.
“Well, I, uh,” Nora starts.
“A performance?” Nora squeaks back.
“Show me these amazing ballet skills of yours.”
Another time, Nora might have protested, said that the hardwood was bound to be terrible for her bare feet or that she hadn’t warmed up or that she was still in her pajamas, but her relief that he doesn’t want any sexual favors is so strong, and it makes her compliant.
“Oh, okay. Well, uh, what kind of things, or uh skills, did you have in mind?”
“Well, I don’t really know any of the names.” He seems to think for a moment. “Wait, what about those spins you guys do?”
“Pirouettes,” Nora corrects. She gingerly stands up, carefully shifting her weight onto her tender feet. She walks towards the middle of the foyer. As Nora pushes into her turns, the delivery man shifts to the middle of the bench, positioning himself so that he can best watch her as she spins and spins. If this were dance class, Nora would stop at seven clean turns. But now she continues on to eight, and then nine, even though she starts to lose her momentum. Her tenth turn is even sloppier, her alignment is out of whack and her knees wobble, but she pushes through until she completes her eleventh revolution.
When Nora stops, she looks eagerly to the delivery man for his reaction, but he’s no longer watching her, instead focusing his attention back to the pile of medical supplies on the bench beside him. Nora waits for him to look back up at her, to do something to acknowledge her performance, but when he stands he only says, “I really should get going. I have the rest of the route to complete.” She was worried that he might do something embarrassing, like give her a standing ovation or request that she teach him how to do a pirouette of his own, but when he says nothing, she feels sad. As the delivery man walks past Nora on the way out the door, he finally hands her the package. Nora stays standing in the middle of the foyer, holding it, watching through the door as the delivery man opens and then closes the door of his truck.
Once she sees him pull away from the curb, Nora looks down at the package in her hands, curious to see if it’s for her. She doesn’t recognize the intended recipient’s name, and on the address line, the house number is one digit off from Nora’s. She begins walking towards the open door, intent on dropping the package off on her neighbor’s porch, but for the second time that morning, Nora is distracted by the pain in her feet. When she looks down, she sees that the new white bandages are streaked with dirt and that the material has frayed where it snagged on the seams in the hardwood flooring. Two of the blisters on her right foot have opened and are oozing liquid. Even the Band-Aid, which had been so carefully wrapped around her right pinky toe, is lopsided. Everything will have to be redone.
Central Mountain Range, Taiwan
These mountains are green even in winter, a bare dusting of snow settles perhaps once or twice in a decade. Every so often, there is a mass exodus from cities up into the mountains, and for the moment, the hills are alive with the chatter of tour groups and the plastic bottles and paper bento boxes they leave behind. They leave, they inevitably leave, whether at the end of a weekend, a week, or longer. And the mountains are left to rest in peaceful silence.
What troubles the mountains are the people who don’t leave, those who built iron- sheet huts to hawk betel nut or boba or steaming bowls of noodles and soup, who bulldoze their slopes and shape them into flat ledges to pave with asphalt and fumes that invite metal contraptions which race too quickly for a mountain to follow. Elaborate buildings spring up, shaped like a Viennese manor, or a Swiss cottage, or an American log cabin that fill to bursting during vacations but increasingly attract swarms during the off-season as well. Most of all, the mountains are now ravaged by enormous swaths of betel nut trees, whose stems are too shallow to keep the soil in its place, who create much profit for their human owners but much anguish for the mountains. When the torrential rains come, the trees wash away without a second thought, leaving the mountain bare-headed and desolate.
The mountains have no recourse; they do not stoop to the human methods of conducting affairs. They know from long experience that humans come and go like the wind that ruffles their trees. Still, there is a worrying trend, making itself clearer at terrifying speeds. The mountains would not mind the people, if they came and let the mountains be as they always have been, but they simply must object to the destruction of their slopes. They have heard rumors of a place far in the north where their fellow mountains have become nothing more than cities on an incline, where the slopes are overwhelmed not occasionally but every day, where those transportation vessels the humans call cars pile up on their narrow, snaking paths and do not subside until long into the night. There are whispers, too, of their brethren in the west, where the humans not only desecrated the slopes but stabbed fine sharp prongs again and again into the mountainside until half of it was gone, carted off to who knows where, leaving its dusty red heart ripped bare to the howling, lonely wind.
For many years, as long as the mountains have encountered humans, they have tolerated, even enjoyed, their presence. But they are finite; they are being used up. A consensus grows at these high altitudes: this cannot last. Either the humans must extend their hand in gestures of reconciliation, or the mountains must give way completely. And when they are lost, the mountains will not be the only ones to suffer.
CW: minor body horror
I envy my body.
This body of mine that never fails to continue its natural cycle, undisturbed and beautiful in purpose. And turning.
Its gears clunk together to deliver on time; fine machinery that stays solid so long as I routinely maintain it—cleaning and oiling, cleaning and oiling. I envy such machinery for being everflowing and unconscious in its performance. I envy how it doesn’t question its role it was given, its cycle it completes, and its birth. Quite the opposite, my body’s machinery is eager to complete its seasons. Unlike me, who in fleeting moments, desires to disturb that simple system in hopes that, by ceasing its play, it would grant me a sex-less body. One that does not need to turn. One that does not need to be routinely maintained by having to reach in-between its folds and press on pliable skin to clean and oil. One that, if I were to reach down, there’ll be nothing there. Only the smooth curves like those of a Barbie or Ken doll. And empty. And hollow. There’d be no organs to dictate, no unconscious performance, no bleeding-out—simply and wonderfully hollow.
But still, I hear it turning.
This body of mine that I sometimes have violent thoughts with. To use the kitchen knife I use to cut pomegranates and forcibly mold it to my liking. Cutting even slices into the heavy fruit and as its crimson juices stick to the gums and roof of my mouth, I’m inspired by flashes of blood and pieces my mind supplies—to cut out the machinery that has its task. It reminds me of a beautiful dream I had about waking up with no sexual organs. The filtering sun bathed my body and I awoke with such tender content it aroused soft tears to drip onto my pillow from knowing my body was no longer caught in the gears of its cycle.
But still, I hear it turning.
I watched a tree dance in spring. How its arms gently swayed and rejoiced in its new leaves; recovering from the harsh winter that took its body away. Embracing the joyful sunlight and welcoming the evening birds, all while relishing in its fertile nature to renew and grow. I watched the tree be still in winter. How the harsh winds and snows tumbled and shook without remorse—breaking its growth apart until it became bare. I found its bareness far more beautiful than its fullness in spring and wished spring would reverse for me.
But still, I hear it turning.
meditations on an eggy sticky summer
CW: eating disorder, suicidal ideation
On the third-to-last day of summer camp in an uncomfortable bed, I dream I turn into a rooster and I wake up on the scuffed wooden floor covered in grass and acrylic paint.
There is too much color in the 8:56 p.m. sky and it hurts my eyes and I am spinning so fast that the colors blur into brown and so my eyes calm down and my brain fills with water. I drink eight cups of unsweetened iced tea. My legs are patterned with green and red and I am so happy but the summer hovers delicately like a poached egg in simmering water, the yolk about to freeze inside the white. I want to live inside the watery yolk, but I know it has to be temporary. Only boiled eggs keep for longer than a few moments and I would rather die than eat one.
While stoned, I look at my reflection in the bathroom mirror (though I had tried to avoid it) and notice my irises wobbling like sunny side up eggs, stained green like the ones in Dr. Seuss books. I wonder if I always look this afraid.
I buy a $12 yellow shirt with a chicken on it from an overpriced thrift store in a town I’ve never been to and I try to relearn how to love my family, but I don’t think it works. I eat eggs Benedict but I cannot stomach it so it ends up at a rest stop in southwestern Vermont.
I text you and then power my phone off for 14.35 hours. If I do not open the text the answer hovers, wispy and nonexistent (Schrödinger’s cat). In the meantime, I climb a mountain with my sister and the languishing blue landscape is bluer around the edges. I lie on a rock, and the blue swallows me but (ironically) the sun turns me orange. A jackrabbit, lanky and pinkish with ragged fur, darts across the trail once and I stand still, hoping it will come toward me, but it flashes into nothing before I even sneeze. Afterwards, we buy food from a Republican-filled diner in New Hampshire and the poached eggs make me vomit scarlet in the bathroom so I wonder if, and almost hope, I am dying.
In an egg carton we bought, we find a single fucked up egg. When it cracks into the off-white ramekin, instead of a uniform orange oval, there is a quivering mass of blue and red veins, the wispy beginnings of a beak and eyes collected at one corner of the yolk. My sister is repulsed and runs to the sink as if to wash the sight off her hands.
I wonder if the mother hen loved the fucked up egg and I wonder if she felt a twinge of sadness when the farmers took it away from under her rusty red haunches. Do chickens feel sadness? Do they feel love? I think about this in bed at 3:46 a.m and then I bleed through my sheets and think that if I were a chicken, an egg would appear underneath me instead. Would I love it?
The air is sticky and smeary and quiet and I try to read books but the pages are smudged into a homogenous heap of paper and ink and so I just sit, submerged in an odd slurry of caffeine and melatonin. The moon is glowering outside the car, bald and pockmarked and bluishly fragile. I want to hold it between two fingers, pull off the shell to reveal the trembling yellow yoke. Or maybe it would be a green yolk; after all, the moon is made of green cheese.
We drive to Northampton but it isn’t the same without you (it doesn’t glow with yellow and orange fireworks) so I stop loving it. My “loved list” dwindles daily. I decide eggs are my new thing to love, though eating too many of them always makes me sick. I order egg salad at a restaurant just to push it around with my fork in oblong swirls of meaninglessness. I’ve always found it disgusting.
In May, my former best friend told me that the East and West Eggs in The Great Gatsby were like a coconut and a grape, respectively. The first being hard to get into but easy to get to the center of, once you’re inside. The second being easy to get into but hard to get to the center. Now it is mid-July, and I wonder if people can be categorized in this way as well. I wonder what box I fall into and I wonder what box you do and I wonder if they are different.
Thinking of this, I write poems in my head but by the time I write them down in my notes app, they don’t make sense. In the Berkshires, we pass a pen of dusty lavender donkeys framed by a stand advertising fresh eggs. “I wonder if donkeys like eggs,” someone says. I don’t know who. In the backseat, I send photos of my faded pink hair to people to annoy them. Later, I regret it.
According to Google, there are 71 calories in a poached egg.. I step on a rusty scale at a horse farm in New Hampshire (no chickens) and I lost five pounds and I feel happy but then I feel sad that I feel happy.
My summer fades from forest green to light blue. I try to fall in love with New York for the 17th time but find myself scuffling through Times Square again and again, hating the lights and the bustle. I eat scrambled eggs and Earl Grey tea for lunch everyday and I try to ignore the light pollution.
I contemplate double piercing my ear with a sewing needle from CVS, but realize I do not have the willpower. My sister buys earrings at a flea market that are shaped like eggs and I want to steal them but I do not.
I sit on my trampoline that smells like a department store and think of how my hometown feels like a cardboard gingerbread exhibit at Christmas. I turn on my cellular data for 5 sec- onds. You text me but I do not reply.
Sweating at 1:18 a.m, I write drafts of what to text you but I get bored, so I poach eggs in the kitchen and eat them one after another, swathed in pepper and salt, until my arms sag with proteins and lipids. Then I vomit into the sink and I want to cry but my body is too dehydrat- ed for tears.
I decide, once again, that I have never been in love.