Write something true, she said, and so i did and let me tell you this story.
once, when i was seventeen and still shedding my child skin, i got up off the floor where i had been waiting for something to happen, my life perhaps. the skin of my knees remembered the carpet, the house not mine. i don’t remember what i was wearing, but i was awkward and shy, unwilling to draw attention to all the things that was already wrong about me, so it was most likely nothing that would have made a difference, anyway. i left the four walls and the door, the cat sleeping on the chair. the gate was already unlocked. a pity. it wouldn’t have mattered, because i was born hungry, a soft continent adrift in an ocean of want. i went of my own accord, i have to say this. i have to be honest. i wasn’t dragged out, but i think i was pushed by things i cannot name, and also, i was hunted. i was chosen. because the things that i wanted more than what i had been given, were written all over my face—inked, and calling. and it was thus, that i walked out into the night. i walked the dark streets of that small town with him. you don’t know his name, and i won’t tell you because naming things matter, and i won’t give his name any room here, and i cannot remember the colour of his eyes. this makes me happy as i sit here writing. there is Assam tea in my cup, the tea pot with the flowers, sea glass so blue that it reminds me of love. and a piece of wood undressed by the ocean. smooth. a talisman. all this beauty surrounds me, and i have always been able to hold a memory in my mouth and turn it into words, but here as i sit wrapped up in a September far from my other life, i cannot remember the colour of his eyes, and i once knew it. this is all you need to know about him. the heat hung low and so many papery mothwings were drawn to the lights that punctured the hidden spaces. house to hushed house. perhaps they thought it was the sun, the real thing. they paid for this in the end. how they followed the flickering lights. the unknowing looming large inside their brown bodies. and him—his hands and his mouth, all of it. the way he drew a line and found what he wanted, sure in all the things that he wanted to own, so sure, that he did not need to use any of his own words. he mirrored mine. and i, who was hungry, did not know anything other than fullness for a microscopic moment. even now, i don’t have anything to give you, dear reader, other than to tell you that my feet still search the dust of that place. i am barefoot and the earth is warm, having feasted on the hot sun all day, it refuses to let go forgetting again that tomorrow is being born right in that moment. i don’t go looking for him. not anymore. i used to. often, i would fall asleep taking him with me to my bed, him living behind my eyes, and me willing him to do something different, let go of my hand, be somewhere else. be someone else. it takes a lot of tenderness to slice someone out of your head every night. at first you will need a sharp blade called ‘acceptance’ and ‘this is what it was, but it isn’t anymore’. and now i go in search only of her in that bougainvillea-lined street. only her. and when i find her, i show her my hands, my palms pale pink—the soft of a baby’s ear, the blush of a conch shell on a sandy beach. even now. even after. still open to everything. the gossamer hunger to trust—still there. still rising moist and searching. shimmering and alive.
© Liezel Graham 2021.