Cover Photo: Dovemuscle by emily morris

Dovemuscle

On the sidewalk, you are a red shard caught in the furthest left corner of my vision. We each speak through our friends and past them, addressing the street. I say something about the crooked awning and hear you shift your weight. It begins to snow for the second time this week.  

 

*

 

The smokers flicked their cigarettes onto the sidewalk all at once—slow, determined arcs into the cement, like a lazy symphony. I started up the stairs, back to the party inside. As I held the door for you, I took a deep breath, looked back, and smiled.

 

You didn’t look up. A lock of your hair grazed the slick tops of your eyelids.

 

Fine. I decided to get drunk if you wouldn’t talk to me. I danced in the corner and willed myself not to seek you out. But you kept appearing, the red flash just out of my reach.  

 

It was the moment before the whole crowd would disperse. I was done being shy. I touched your elbow as you retrieved your jacket. You paused, then held mine, too, so gently. 

 

On the train, your presence was too immediate for conversation. No one spoke, no strangers entered, I could only hear the car’s low white buzz.  I could only feel your hand melting my kneecap. I could only see the way your thumb might hook around my bottom lip.

 

Above ground, you pinned me up against a baseball fence. In return I reached inside your murky jacket, thumbed the skin above your waistband and went twist. When you doubled over, I ducked under your arm and ran into the field.

 

I ran the diamond. The alternating sounds of my own panting and the crunch below made a  metronome. When I reached the dugout again I stuck my head between my knees and caught my breath.  

 

From upside down then there were twelve of you and twelve of me, in perfect yard-long increments, stretched out in a circle: red shard black puff red shard black puff red shard black puff on the iris-colored ground.

 

One of me raised her chin, revved up with a running start, and held a glorious second of air before pouncing unforgivingly onto the back of one of you, erasing us both. Then again: one of me running, one of me pausing to savor my flight, one of me pouncing, breathlessly, to consume one of you, our mirrors disappearing with a silent smack.

 

The final you, the twelfth you, looked at the final me, the original me, and pounced back.

 

We did not disappear. In fact, your weight on top of mine felt like the only proof I'd ever need.

 

The golden down on your ears glowed with the sallow cast of street lamps, rising up behind your head like a crown against the fresh tar sky.

 

Am I a certain way? I thought. 

 

You warmed my throat with hand-shaped heat. When I opened my mouth to moan it was packed with snow)w)w)w)wW

 

*

 

I thrust my cigarette lamely to the ground, where the sidewalk wicks it away instantly.  

 

I turn left. Your face looks different than how it felt from the side. Actually, your shirt is not visible; it’s your hat that I saw. Red hat. Clean shave. Spindly arms. All wrong.

 

I open my mouth and close it. I tighten my scarf and turn down the block to hail a cab.

 

From the back seat, I call him. I can hear in his voice that his forehead is damp.


“Hi."

“Hello?”

“Hi, I’m headed back--”


“Okay. Coming here? Asleep. Okay. Sleeping now.” 

“Go back to bed.”


The cab driver asks me if you were my boyfriend.  


“Who? The guy in the hat?”

“Your boyfriend is the guy in the hat?”


 *

 

Staring into the dark of his ceiling, under his covers, absorbing his warmth, I can’t picture your real face or your fake face anymore, or which one was which, or if you are a movie extra whose face I didn’t know I saw, but did. I see you dissolve, see your red shirt crumple from your solar plexus and beam you in, up, you’re gone.

 

“Let’s fuck in the snow,” I say to his head and body.  

Silence. 

“Hey,” I poke his collarbone.

“Wghht?”

“Let’s have sex in the snow.”

 “Sleeping right now,” he murmurs.

 “Let’s go outside.”


Blindly, he lifts his torso from the bed, cranes his neck as far as it can go, and unfurls his eyes to consult the window, as if he were conserving all of his energy, all night, for this one certain blue blink.


A steady stream of flakes makes its dutiful march to the ground.


“Snowing right now.  Tomorrow. In th’morning.” 


He thuds brusquely back to bed, his forearm slapping down dully across my chest. 

 

I try to wake him again, with a nibble to the arm. His bicep reminds me of a sleeping dove. I’m sure he would dislike that comparison, but that’s what it looks like: a piece of fat atop a piece of muscle, whirring and dormant.

 


“Dovemuscle,” I say into his cotton sleeve.

 

Tonight is closed. I slither down and pull the comforter up and over my head, turn me into grainy sleep. If you were staring from the doorway, you would never know I’m there.


i identify as an ancient caryatid toppling down the outside staircase of a californian motel.