I wear my Hawaiian shirt when I need to feel safe. No one can hate you when you’re wearing a Hawaiian shirt even when you’re asking them for change and they know it’s for a hit and you smell like you slept in your own puke, because you did. I only really have two shirts, mind you. The other one is denim with cut-off sleeves, which looks sharp, in my opinion, but people aren’t as friendly when I wear that one. I got the shit kicked out of me more than once when I was wearing it.
The sea. The sea. The sea exists. The sea exists symbolically.
As symbol the sea exists to stand for what’s radically unknown and unknowably radical. The sea exists as wide and deep expanse to plunge in into for forever, to never return from, or to return from as turned up, transformed, limp and salt sparkling, shore thing washed ashore for mourning. The sea exists as non-place, as space, as glimmering surface face to slide over incased in a craft skimming along on this surface only lonely for the next place.
I don’t remember the year, but we were drinking sherry. Violet, Cookie and I. Life is just the waiting in between the two or three interesting things that will happen to you. We were teenagers, waiting.
Cookie said, “My father has a liquor closet as big as a hot air balloon.”
We looked at each other. That changed everything.
Static sputtered and cracked across the fishbowl screen. A pixelated talk show flickered over and over again behind thick grey waves. A Spiderman comic was twisted in the covers of my bed. I went to bed with it every night but didn’t read it.
My mother blasted the radio so loud the walls shook. The weatherman said, Watch out, folks! Extremely dangerous heat conditions are expected for the rest of week. Keep young children and pets inside.
The setting sun scorched my eyes, but I kept watching him through my window. His name was Billy and he lived across the street. He was always in the same position, in the same clothes, leaning against the frame of his window.
Bea takes up quarters in the room that had evidently fallen victim to violent splashes of Pepto-Bismol-coloured paint. She was forced to drag her trunk and hatbox onto the bed with great effort, after her oaf of a brother-in-law stared blankly at her request for assistance.
“Who travels like this anymore anyways?” Sharon asks as she clunks a knuckle on the leather case that contains Bea’s possessions. Each piece had been wrapped delicately with layers of tissue and brown Kraft paper, tied with twine.
“The stipulation for my visit was no judgment be made on my way of life.” Bea removes her lace gloves—she’d had them made special for the trip—and folds them neatly in her hand.
“Hey, no judgment.” Sharon holds her hands up as though under arrest. “It’s just…” she scratches at residue built on the travel-weary case until it buckles underneath her fingernail. The action makes Bea’s stomach lurch. “It’s just weird.”
It is Linnea’s idea to set up the tent in the yard and Jimmy Jr.’s to play pirates.
“No one taught the boy that pirates sleep on ships?” James asks, dropping beside me on the wooden porch step and filling my sherry glass.
I smile. “He just wants company. You know . . .” I cover one eye with my hand. The doctor gave Jimmy Jr. his patch to correct a lazy eye; I fashioned a matching set for Linnea and her friend Ella.
We watch the kids at the end of the walk, their voices conspiratorial and happy. Across the street, the Smithson men are fixing up their mother’s place. Tomorrow James begins a new job, his first in a year.
“Have you been experiencing any problems?”
The doctor stares at me, fingers poised over his keyboard. The room is the colour of bone.
“What kind of problems?”
“Just general. How’s your sleep? Digestion? Aches and pains?”
I came to the doctor for the first time in five years to tell him about Jer, but he doesn’t fit into any of those categories so I hesitate. I look down at my feet, dangling between the metal stirrups of the examination table. My hands shake.
“Sleep I guess.”
“You’re having problems sleeping?”
“I fall asleep. And then I wake up.”
The gaps between Chloe’s fingers glowed green. Meet you at the bird! The message read.
Chloe didn’t know what the bird was. She was already late and now had to shuttle herself across Olympic Village to look for a bird. She was on the hunt for a hundred species, from pigeon to phoenix. Why couldn’t he just name a place?
translated by Jessica Moore
He felt her stretch out near him, smelled the scent of her hair, her shoulders, the oils she slathered on her body, the charms she filled their room with as soon as his back was turned. There were the ones he recognized, kola nut, dried lemons, perfumed shells placed in the open on the window ledge, beside the incense holder. And then there was the multitude whose presence he only guessed at, swelling the lining of a cushion, blocking the crack in a wall. He didn’t look for them, never looked under the bed or behind the furniture.
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The sink grudgingly supports his weight as he presses his face closer to the mirror to see himself more clearly, though clarity’s not something he really expects anymore, no matter how close he gets to things. Every day the sagging sink’s connection to the wall weakens, but every day his steadily diminishing weight is less of a problem for it. What grows clearer daily is the evidence of his failing: the merging of neck and chin, the slack flesh hanging from cheekbones with an air of boredom, the sagging shadows under his eyes; these bags are partly from the drink, he knows, but they’re also a grim symptom, another tell-tale sign…can’t this thing at least have the decency to keep things between the two of them? Makes him mad. He’s had enough of having enough.