By Kayleigh Birch
I have this image, and it won’t stop turning over in my head. We were all in Nevada. My lips tasted like they were evaporating (and blueberries and junior year). We were all stumbling back to the hotel room. I didn’t used to be bad on my feet until the rug was pulled from under them.
Everyone was in the side room. I took a swig from the bottle, because fuck, I deserve the hedonism. I deserved something. If this was the softest way I could hurt myself, let it be. Everyone kept telling me to let it be. I didn’t want to. I ran barefoot across the carpet near the broken glass on the floor and put all of my might into the sliding glass door.
Everyone looks small from the 35th floor. When I looked up, I saw nothing but the stars reflecting the city lights. In Nevada, the city lights aren’t like the ones in LA: they’re all the colors of the rainbow. They’re neon and artificial, like my bloodshot eyes and silk clothes and melodramatic slurred words. I think I started to scream. Names and places. Just so they could evaporate into the air with the smoke and water coming up from the streets. The desert winds picked up, so I don’t think anyone heard. I liked how the wind colored my throat bright red. I laid down on the balcony, turning to the side, curled up just how he liked. The glass was cool and showed me how all I needed was to turn to my side to tip the teapot tears. They were hot. Hot proper. I never liked that word. I’ve never been hot. Maybe I was hot that night? The artifice of the game was hot: the chase of bringing him, or whatever else he dragged with him, back to me was hot with malice and passion and other teenage afterglows that lingered into twenty. It was deep red lips and a tongue that wouldn’t treat anyone like a downer. It was hot.
Everyone looks small from the 35th floor.
The sliding glass door broke through the haze. J came out on the balcony and I cleared some space for her to sit with me, even though she wasn’t who I was thinking of. J was worried, as all good friends sometimes are. I wish I could remember what she said to me. This is why I don’t do things like this, I remember thinking. I’m so scared of forgetting. That’s why I write everything down. J laid down next to me. I wasn’t crying. The tears were just trickling. It was the only time I cried when I didn’t have to close my eyes, or wring out the sentiment. I don’t even remember actively feeling sad. Maybe I was so sad, so deeply and profoundly sad, so much of the time, that it didn’t feel different from anything else I was feeling.
I got back to thinking of him, now that J was settled in knowing I was okay. I traced the shape of his face in the lights, desperate to remember every freckle. One above the left eyelid, right? I thought I memorized this face, I should know better by now. Or maybe I never looked at him like one day, he wouldn’t want me to. I loved that freckle, even if it didn’t exist. How did he take his tea? I can’t forget things like this. I don’t remember what I’m forgetting. Let’s say milk and honey and cinnamon. That sounds nice in a poem, if I ever write poems again. It sounds like how it tastes. Creamy and soft, like the lights when they’re blurred through my tears. God, I sound stupid. I like looking at the lights with J. I don’t know what we’re talking about, but I’m sure it’s making me feel good, even if she can’t see it in my body. I can’t see my body.
I don’t have a fucking diary. I don’t even have him.
They say that a little after you’re born, you become aware of your body as a place in the universe, as opposed to a part of it. Sometimes I feel like I skipped that step. Maybe that’s why I’m on the ground and floating in technicolor and I don’t feel anything at all. The glass is cool and wet. Watch how much I like it. I’ll prove to him, to everyone, that I like everything, and I love even more than that.
Everyone looks small from the 35th floor.
I’m still not good on my feet, but I use them for better things now. They dance more than they used to, and floor gas pedals when the best part of the song comes on. The car was a dramatic place. I drove with my legs crossed and screamed at the top of my lungs until my throat was bloody and I took all the saltwater and rinsed the taste of every single name from in between my teeth. I drove down every street just to kill the inside of my mind. Let me numb it with something it knows. Streets can only do one of two things: they either take you home or far away from it. They seldom do both. I never knew what would happen if one day I woke up, and tried my best, and they did neither.
The streets know which way he takes home. I don’t anymore.
It’s November, and I’m in an airport again. I remember the first time was five years ago, and five is a very lucky number for me. I was sixteen and had no idea where I was going. I hoped somewhere to write things, wherever that place would be. I wore skirts and tinted pink lip balm, and liked that quite a lot about myself. Three years ago, I had just applied to college, sitting in the same terminal. I’m applying to college again right now. Every November is the sickly-sweet caramel of the “begin again” days, the feeling of when you’re young, but doing something grown-up. I think to myself, “Look how you’ve become the girl of your dreams. You used to take planes with him and read books by men that reminded you of him, and now, you take planes by yourself and all your favorite books are ones you’ve written. All of your tomorrows are somedays, and it makes sense that people change their minds. You’ve gotten up from the broken soil where you lulled yourself to sleep repeating, “if you want me, you can come and pick me up.” Look how nicely the moss grew over your bones. That’s why it brings out the green in your eyes: it’s messy and deep like the Earth you never learned how to separate yourself from.” Or something like that.
Waiting. I hate that word. I hate staying somewhere until something else happens. I hate having the time to sketch your face in the crowd. J says that I see a lot of my past lives everywhere. Maybe that’s the only way I can find the freckle. But I know it was on the left side. I know every single good angle. I know when Head and Shoulders went on sale because my car stopped smelling like TRESemmé. I could walk to the cafe with the 115th dream all the way from Toronto. Bob Dylan never wanted you to know anything about him, too. Some people didn’t even know what his eyes looked like, because he always wore those sunglasses. I wonder if he had any freckles that some girl was keeping herself up at night trying to remember.
I’m in an airport again. It’s November. I’ll be in England by morning and Ireland in the afternoon. I’ll be on the soil that my family came from: my third-ranked home when the weird kids would ask me where I’m really from, and the only one I’ve never seen. I wonder if I’ll see where I got my nose or my upward inflection or my proclivity for some nights to taste like blueberry. I wonder if I’ll see the mermaids that my family used to dream of. Atlantic. That word doesn’t sound real. I think they wanted me to be a Pacific girl. Everyone’s best memories of me are in the water.
Kayleigh Birch, from Los Angeles, is in her final semester of her degree, graduating from the University of Toronto with a double major in English and Cinema Studies. She has been writing poetry, scripts, fiction (novels and prose), and songs her whole life: her other published works can be found in The Los Angeles Times, The Strand Magazine, and The Louisville Review. Her debut poetry novel, Love Letters Only, can be purchased on Amazon, and her portfolio can be viewed here: https://kayleighbirch.wixsite.com/portfolio
Photo Credit: Kayleigh Birch