You can’t see the sun — its watery glow tumbles from bellies of clouds and pools on a slice of blacktop. You’re there with your friends, peeling pieces off of a cafeteria nectarine, the wind light and the corners of your lips sticky sweet, patches catching strands of flailing hair. The cotton sky is low and full, a pillow to the mouth. Someone talks about the summer, their family speckled with ocean salt and pink sunscreen, clean scent of chlorine on their skin. Months ago, you’d buzzed with joy in an empty apartment, facing the dry air of the kitchen fan. The oven was off, but hot. Was it feverish? You put your palms to your cheeks. Were you? The sky harvests wetness into foggy clumps, dries everything out like raisins. At home, you recite your friend’s memories to yourself like a spell. You dream of aquariums, you clasp your lips around faucets, you fill yourself heavy like a water balloon. Everyone else, it seems, is far less likely to float away.
You’ve known home for many years. By now you’ve memorized the way the sun slips down the walls, where the striped tablets of light hit depending on the day, the weather, the season. Yesterday your father was angry: there is a hairpin on the bathroom counter bent out of shape. In the kitchen there is steam rising from the cooker, curling into the exhaust fan. He’s cooking for you. The steam will join the clouds, heavy and low and hanging. It is warm. The door is open to let the thick scent of oil and sugar out to the gray air, but the fog rushes in like a puff of dust, and suddenly your fingers turn sticky, nectarine sticky. Your mother says something far away must be on fire. You think it’s the static fuzz before a thunderstorm. Your family’s cheeks are red with steam and cloud. There are popsicles from last summer crackling in the freezer’s mist.
This is the dry. Clouds like the last tufts of cotton pulled off of all the others, frozen solid in their smallness. You pour the last drops of orange juice into the cap of its’ container — that is your breakfast, in the air conditioned room that feels as if it is your own dry mouth, its ventilation imitating your own pursed lips. The sun shines like a flashlight on your new city, beating steadily, bounding against the glass and the glittering granite of the sidewalks. You’ll buy a carton of milk, press your lips against it, and let it condense. So, you are dry. You have floated away and you are trickling back — gurgling down the drains, crystallizing in the faintest tips of sky. Your father will drink bits of you from the water fountain in a public park, droplets tangling in his beard. Your mother will watch you simmer on the stove. She will eat the grains you softened.
Devaki Devay attends community college and has worked as an editor for the student-run paper. Their work, which centers around child abuse and the struggles of the South Asian diaspora, has been published in Royal Rose magazine and Mariasatsampaguitas.
Featured Image Credit: Morgaine Baumann