It was real hot. I held my melting face in my hands which now looked smeared with chocolate. I had put dirt on the top of my skin because I wanted to leave no room for me to be ugly.
When I was younger I used to wash my face seven times like how I did with pants that stained. My face got dry in the way that it starts to get hard to stretch a smile but at least my teeth are white, I thought.
The year that Jasmine Franks called me a monkey someone told me that rabbit feet were good-luck. I almost had a drawer full. They always fell off my backpack because I used to treat it rough. Girls were told to wear them tight and high but I let mine slink and slouch, I kept it loose and wild especially when I would run. It felt like trying to balance on a seesaw. I thought it made me cool like all the blond boys with motorcycle parents that pop gum.
I don’t believe in gum anymore. It gives me gas. Not the futile kind but the tummy ache kind.
Their best flavor used to be watermelon. There was something satisfying about how the taste never seemed to doubt itself no matter how long you chewed.
One summer, I puked all the seeds of a watermelon. I’ve never been more happy. A billion dots in a bucket, all black and bloody colored. My mother rubbed my back that night and told me a story about Africa. She said my grandmother was a gardener. She taught me how to water the dirt.
It wasn’t that my cousin was crazy. For argumentative purposes, she appeared perfectly normal—ordinary even. There were occasions that our conversations felt draining, like a June day sitting in small room; constricting for both its mundane nature and its contradicting potential for something greater, at any moment. It made you want to wait. I would often say crude one-liners to rile her up but her mouth would only allow Oh wow, Elaine to drip at its corners, as though she was also too tired to bother. It really made me want to ring her neck, we both knew it was an act but somehow we always entertained it. At least this is how it sat in my mind.
You see, when I was in fifth grade, she had still been living with me and my Mother. It was an arrangement that the two of them had struck up as a trade, a bed for her to sleep on if she would make sure to take care of me while my Mother was at work. In my own young ways, I hated her at the time. She never took me out to play and had once told me that I had my father’s boobs. Rude, I tell you. I was sure she was a she-devil of sorts. One day after school, the thought was confirmed. I came home to a bald head. It was eerie and unusual, large and waxy. I didn’t look at her for a month. You look like an alien, I would say with my back turned to her and my hands on my hips. Perhaps it was also a form of revenge.
Seemingly, I had delayed visiting her at her new apartment. She had finally moved out; independent at the age of thirty-one. It felt good to know that she was progressing as all good standing citizens should. Yet, nothing scared me more than what I would find upon entry.
Garlic—mounds and mounds of garlic. The smell had the same effect of a dog that lunged itself onto your knees, seeking to take you down on all fours. It was unrelenting, licking your face, eyes, between your fingers, and up your nose. It was the kind of dog that disregarded the entire theory of personal space between strangers.
I used to collect rocks. I would dig right into the dirt as my Mother warned me that my hands would no longer be clean. She would describe the filth that was sure to collect under my fingernails if I continued and the worms that may sneak between my fingers. I would keep digging. On my windowsill there were forty rocks perfectly aligned. Each one aroused no call for alarm; they were gray, brown, and beige. These rocks were ordinary, yet not when they reached my windowsill. I had chosen them as the sun climbed onto my back in the sweltering break of afternoon and took the effort to wash them clean from the ground. I had freed them from the cover that had buried them beneath the marching of feet. They were no longer lowly.
He was dressed in all black and his dog was just the same, a beautiful Labrador. The two of them were straggling through the gym with heavy feet and drowsy eyes. I could tell that they were sinking. As I looked away my muscles tightened and then released. I was working on the tone of my thighs.
I wondered how long the man had been blind. His cheeks were still pink as though he was not through with being a child. Up,down. Sigh. Sink. His head fell into his legs. The sweat on his thin arms was being unfair to him. He wanted to be strong.
Outside there were groups of teenagers on their college tour. I’m tired. A girl collapsed on her friend. They had been walking through the campus with the help of a guide.