the air mattress
you feel like my right hand
your habits burned onto the inside of my eyelids
and our silence is comfortable
from years of inhabiting the same space
and with paths diverged, we stay the same
I read textbooks from the chair in the living room
while you grade papers in the kitchen
you keep an air mattress permanently inflated in the loft
and for someone who doesn't pay rent
we all know that it's mine
we carve out spaces in our lives for each other
permanently etched into our hearts and brains
I can forgive myself
I write the letters into the air, imagining what it would be like to hear them said out loud. There is fire in my heart. It burns for recognition, burns to answer the question: what if? But I bite my lips as you drop love letters on the table. The sounds from my mouth shape the word no, regret churning in my stomach. But I would never thank myself for saying yes. I can forgive myself for wanting you to stay. I don't know if I could forgive you for staying. I silence my apologies. You walk out the door.
In my head, I called you Jacket Girl. You sat in front of me in class everyday, two seats forward, one seat left. I knew you by the sound of your voice, the stretch of your hand into the air, and by your jackets.
Monday was always casual, some variation of a quarter zip with a random corner logo, emblematic of one of the many organizations that I was sure you were in.
Tuesday was consistent. It was the brown leather jacket, with the zippers at the cuffs. The metal would click on your keyboard if you were typing too quickly, and I always learned to seek out the noise - knowing it was telling me to pay attention.
Wednesday was all business. Some smart looking blazer to match the confidence in your voice. Wednesday was the day firms would always table in the buildings- and you? well you dressed for success.
Thursday was a wild card. I never knew what type of jacket would end up showing up on Thursdays. One week it was the faded jean jacket, Shakespeare painted along its sleeves. Another week it was an old-school varsity letter jacket, adorned with all manner of accomplishments. I lived for the surprise.
But Fridays were my favorite. Fridays were for the trench coat. You always swept into class with it swishing around your legs, hands in your pockets, and a grin on your face. Fridays were for the trench coat. Fridays were also the day when Professor Shannon would turn over the class to the students for open speech and debate, and somehow you always ended up at the front of the classroom. Your words flew wild and I fell a little bit in love with the way you talked, hands in the air, talking circles around the rest of the class. Fridays were for the trench coat. But, Fridays were also for me. I got into the habit of sending you a thumbs up every time you went to take your stage, and with each week that passed, you eventually started looking back. I'd applaud and you would smile, walking back to your seat with a head nod in my direction. It was our routine. You, me, and your trench coat- and that's all it needed to be.
we learn to live in your denial
when your words don't match your eyes
with the intentions that you hide
behind your pretentious alibi
we learn to live next to your lies
reading meaning behind your disguise
remembering that you chose to stay
remembering living through that day
we learn to live
and still to love
even when your words try to push and shove
we keep you near, your lies, our love
The Unseen Cost of Forest Diplomacy
Part Zero: Existence is a Story
“Look deep into nature & you will understand everything better”- Albert Einstein
Existence is a curious state. It is a complicated combination of living and understanding, of what once was, what is, and what will be. In the grand scheme of everything, the fleeting moments to occur between the living, of the interaction of civilizations, of the hearts beating and the breaths leaving from every manner of creature - from the tiniest insects to the mightiest beasts - are inconsequential moments in the vast tapestry of existence. Time will continue beyond every petty squabble, every truce made, beyond the fights, the death, and the rage that plague the world. Time will move beyond nostalgia and memory and goodness. Yet, we look at it with infinite closeness, with the hope that somehow our problems are going to be the thrown stone that shakes the world, the single flap of a butterfly's wings that changes history. We hope that we are at the center of the world, unsure of how to define our existence without the actual existence of us, knowing that so many experiences have had to come together in order to arrive at this specific point. In the vast expanse of time, where countless events unfold and fade away, we are reminded that even the seemingly insignificant actions hold the potential to ripple across the fabric of existence, like the butterfly's wing stirring the currents of fate or the ripple created from a stone tossed into a lake. So we look and we care and we tell every story. We pay attention to every potential change, every rise and fall in the depths of life. We look deep into nature and we learn and we hope and we grow. Amidst the tales of the rising tide, myths of the beginning of creation, stories of how far someone can run when fueled by spite, and the sounds made when a single bullfrog croaks while sitting alone in the middle of a forest, there is a profound realization of life and of existence. This story is every one of those stories, but it is also the story of nature and of grief and of beginning, and of the unseen cost of forest diplomacy.
Part One: A Story Starts at the Beginning
“Mourning, the act of dealing with grief, required attention. Until now there had been every urgent reason to obliterate any attention that might otherwise have been paid, banish the thought, bring fresh adrenaline to bear on the crisis of the day.” - Joan Didion
Along the boundaries of the Great Kithrykk River, in the buttress roots of the tall Kapok trees, two civilizations raged. Their anger was fueled by grief, the peace between them having broken alongside the killing of the smallest of the Golden Protector fleet. The Golden Protectors were the peacekeepers- Wasps blessed by the sun to travel between the Kapok trees, and to keep guard over the civilization lines of which the Kithrykk River flowed alongside. None dared cross the Kithrykk in the times before, and only foolish children and the most stalwart of the water service ever even approached its shores. But now, the waters themselves raged, threatening all of those who approached. With a juvenile dead, the Golden Protectors had turned their backs on the Atrix and Fentrin civilizations, no longer willing to tame the elements that they once presided over with loyalty. Instead they mourned, nestled into the highest branches of the Kapok trees while harsh winds blew away all who tried to approach. They did not want to hear talks of peace from civilizations whose words dripped rage, anger, and war. The Protectors were a tribe of peace, of balance, and this uncalled for death of their own had tipped the scales- necessitating their isolation regardless of the pleas from the civilizations below.
Before the time of the Protectors, the Atrix and the Fentrin lived in an uneasy balance between each other and the elements that surrounded them. They did not know how to tame the water, were not unable to calm the winds, and had no defense to the harsh rays of sun and fire that would often appear. They jostled to find space, to determine who would settle amidst the Kapok roots, the young trees being the first sign of safety in a dangerous world. In those times, the Atrix and the Fentrin did not speak, and lost many members to the temptations of the Kithrykk and to the battles that occurred between tree roots, as shelters rose and fell to wing, tail, and claw. There was no peace, not between each other and not between the elements. But, after ages of death and strife- the Golden Protectors had come, large wasps that had settled the elements and brought a companionable peace to the two warring nations. There were few instances of fighting, but most would simply coexist beneath the Kapok trees, collecting resources from the riverbanks, and tolerating one another’s close proximity. This uneasy peace had lasted for years, so long as the Protectors controlled the elements and kept the waters calm. However, with unfortunate deaths and the heavy consequence of grief, the Golden Protectors had retreated for the first time since peace had been settled years prior. No longer did the winds die at the command of the Protectors, no longer did they keep the waters from being a tempting territory for the reckless. Instead the two civilizations raged- the Atrix and Fentrin screaming across the river, lashing out in grief, in anger, and in confusion- slipping back into the wild history that had begun their stories, each laying fault with each other and spurring the chaos into continuity. Yet, both the Atrix and the Fentrin were hopeful that they could convince the Protectors to break their new isolation, and return the fraught environment to peace.
Part Two: Sometimes the Beginning is not the Start
“A bad peace is even worse than war.” - Tacitus
The Atrix sent their Ambassador first, a larger Darner Dragonfly, who at one point in their lengthy career had brokered a peace between the fierce Tegu Lizards and their feisty Caiman cousins over a dramatic feud only whispered about between the reptilian clans, and dramatized by rumors of regicide, romance, and ridicule in the greater Atrix villages. The Atrix hoped the Darner would be able to clarify their lack of fault for the death of the young Golden, and evoke empathy as a fellow winged creature, horrified by the wing struck fate of the juvenile. They were sure that the fault lay with their foes across the river waters, the Fentrin villages to blame for the death.
So the Darner approached, wings fluttering as he prepared to weave his pleas of peace, to bring stability back to the fraught nations, and to calm the raging elements that threatened their village. But as he flew farther into the branches, the wind began to buffer more strongly- swirling in lengthy gusts, a brisk barrier to the highest branches. Back and back the wind blew the Darner, forcing him to turn back after many discouraging attempts, none of his words even close to reaching the Protector’s above.
The Fentrin sent their Ambassador second, a small fire ant, only just having begun training in their political arena, new to this battle of words and subtlety. They sent the juvenile fire ant up the trunk of the tree, scuttling alongside the tree length and through the paths of its bark towards the upper branches that sheltered the wasps. They hoped that the young nature of their Ambassador would appeal to the Protectors, allowing them an audience in acknowledgment of the similar young nature of their fallen member. But as she scurried up the bark, it seemed that nature itself was against her, the path becoming more and more treacherous as twigs and branches seemed to grow together in front of her very eyes, the Kapok trees working against her to prevent any message or arrival from reaching the eyes and ears of the Golden Protectors sheltered above. And so, after many blocked attempts, the young fire ant turned around, returning to the tenuous shelter of her village among the tree roots, none of her carefully planned words reaching the Protector’s above. .
And as days passed, and nights followed- both the Atrix and the Fentrin continued to feud, certain that the other civilization was at fault for the loss of their protectors, and the raging winds, turbulent waters, and burning sun that had surged in the wake of death. They continued to send attempts at messages into the trees above, but the Atrix jumping spider was struck with a web that refused to stick, and the Fentrin mosquito was caught by sudden rain, waterlogging their wings until they landed on the ground. They sent members of the ambassadors, of the messengers, of the water patrol, and of the food service to failure. They attempted gifts, leaving bounties of precious stones and golden honey in the upper branches of the trees. But the gifts were not accepted either, their presents being knocked from the branches by the unrelenting wind that protected those grieving above. Even appeals to the elements themselves were fruitless, the wind growing harsher and water more fierce in response, and so the stability of each civilization began to fall further and further into the dredges.
With each failed attempt, hostility between the nations grew, certain that if the other just admitted fault that everything would return to normal, that it would all come to a sudden ceasing end. And as their anger grew, so did the waters of the Kithrykk. Families that once neighbored peacefully threw harsh words over tree root fences, and creatures that once refused to even tear blades of grass, began to knock over the hasty sand barricades created to defend against the rising water. The world was in chaos, and only the highest branches, where the Golden Protectors grieved, seemed to be untouched by nature’s hostility.
(Image and information about the Darner Dragonfly: https://greennature.com/darner-dragonflies/)
(Image and information about the Tegu Lizards: https://www.evergladescisma.org/the-dirty-dozen/tegu-lizards/)
(Image and information about the Caiman lizard: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/caiman-lizard)
(Image and information about the fire ant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_ant)
(Image and information about the jumping spider: https://www.terminix.com/blog/bug-facts/jumping-spider-fun-facts/)
(Image and information about the mosquito: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosquito)
Part Three: What Becomes The Start
"It was how wars really ended, Dieffenbaker supposed -- not at truce tables but in cancer wards and office cafeterias and traffic jams. Wars died one tiny piece at a time, each piece something that fell like a memory, each lost like an echo that fades in winding hills. In the end even war ran up the white flag. Or so he hoped. He hoped that in the end even war surrendered." - Stephen King
It started as whispers, hidden under the still rampant buzz of cicadas. It was a question of what the next steps might be, of what would happen if the Golden Protectors refused to come back, if they stayed lost to their chosen isolationism.
“Are we going to keep fighting each other?”
“When will we know peace again?”
“Are the Golden Protectors ever going to come back?”
“What do we do now?”
“Can we survive without them?”
“When is this all going to end?”
“Why are we even fighting?”
Question after question fueled by desperation and anger and loss, and whispered into existence because of it. But the questions did not stay whispers. They became hushed conversations between families huddled behind sand barriers, dug deep into dirt tunnels, and sheltered into the homes built between the roots of the Kapok trees. It felt rebellious to question what was next, to doubt if this chaos was the right thing. But yet, in nearly every insect, every bird, every lizard, frog, and toad, of the Atrix, and of the Fentrin- these questions lingered.
And the longer that these questions lingered, the louder that the questions grew, spreading like ripples on the surface of the troubled waters. They reached the ears of those who were tired of the fighting, exhausted by the endless cycle of blame and anger. They reached the ears of those who were too young to understand the reason behind the fighting, but old enough that they were already part of the fight. They reached the ears of those who had already experienced mountains of their own grief, and who yearned for a similar peace and isolation. They reached and reached and reached, the questions spiraling out to all of those who needed to hear them. These individuals, scattered among both the Atrix and the Fentrin, began to speak in hushed tones, seeking a way to bridge the divide between their civilizations and find a path to peace.
They formed secret meetings, gathering under the cover of night, hidden within the nooks and crannies of the Kapok trees. The fireflies provided a soft glow, illuminating their discussions as they shared their fears, their hopes, and their desires for a better future. These were the peacemakers, the dreamers who believed that harmony was possible, even in the face of grief and loss.
But these peacemakers, these dreamers were still divided, split into pockets within their own civilizations, unsure of how to connect with those across the divide, unsure of whether there were those who even wanted peace in the civilization that warred against them. The peacemakers knew that they needed a plan, a way to bring the divided factions together and initiate a dialogue. They realized that they couldn't rely on the traditional channels of communication that had failed them before. The wind, the water, and the elements seemed to conspire against their efforts, blocking any attempts at reconciliation. Their ambassadors had been rejected time and time again, by every frog, every bird, every insect, every being that was willing to try and approach the Golden Wasps isolated above them. In their secret meetings, the peacemakers brainstormed ideas and considered alternative approaches. They understood that they needed to bypass the anger and blame that had consumed their civilizations. They needed to find common ground, a shared purpose that could unite them despite their differences. They needed each other.
It was a sudden burning realization among those burdened by their desire for peace. This would not be like the times that had come before. The steadfast and loyal Protectors had been burned by their mistakes, there would be no one to come in to tame the wild environment and enforce peace between their civilizations. They had taken that for granted before. Seen their coming as a blessing from above, a gift from the very nature that rebelled around them. Forsaking that had caused chaos to return- only this time they would need to fix it themselves. It wasn’t the Golden Protector Wasps that an ambassador needed to be sent to. The Atrix and the Fentrin needed to meet between themselves and build peace on their own accord. Otherwise, they would continue to fight a two-faced war forever, one against their neighbors, and one against nature itself.
(Image and information about the Cicadas: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cicada/)
(Image and information about the Fireflies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefly)
Part Four: In Which Everything Has an Ending
“Everything has to come to an end, sometime.”
― L. Frank Baum
It was the Fentrin that tried first. They chose a day that was dreary, clouds in the sky, a cold breeze, and rain on the horizon. They started small, sending one of the fruit flies in their cadre as a scout, hopeful to identify someone, anyone in the Atrix that may also want peace, instead of the blood-ridden war raging around them. The tiny scout went slowly, hiding from potentially violent eyes, across the Fentrin border, scurrying around battlefields towards the Atrix village. And as night approached, he hid in the crevices of Kapok bark, in outskirts similar to where the Fentrin held their own secret meetings, in hopes that the Atrix would do the same. Hours passed, and many creatures went by the small fruit fly without notice. But, as rain began to fall and the wind grew colder, and the edge of day began drifting into night- a gathering began to occur in the low clearing where the scout was hidden. Through it all, the Fentrin scout listened to the whispers, as members of the Atrix too had begun to despair the growing rift and senseless violence occurring between the two civilizations. And from their hiding spot, nestled deep into the grooves etched into the tree bark, a tiny flicker of hope began to grow- thoughts of a path forward were finally within reach. Potential actions ran through the scouts brain. Do they reveal themselves? Keep hiding and wait to discuss with the rest of the Fentrin rebels? What if revealing themselves would mean ending the war sooner? What if the Atrix thought that the scout was against them? Each potential decision felt drastically important, the weight of two civilizations falling into the crosshairs of what was occurring in these moments. In the end, the fruit fly decided to stay hidden as the Atrix rebellion began to disperse, making the careful journey back to Fentrin territory. The information learned today was too important to risk having only a small scout knowing it. It needed to be shared and scattered, so that further planning could be executed. And so they returned, cautious along the path that they had followed to arrive, to bring together their small band of rebels and discuss their next moves.
What the Fentrin didn’t know was that at the same time as their scout was eavesdropping on the Atrix rebels, another secret operation was being sent out to the Fentrin territory. It had gone undiscussed in tonight’s meeting, too afraid that even whispers would jinx the trials of the Atrix scout being sent to discover any possible rebellion or dissent among the Fentrin’s.
And so, similarly hidden among the Fentrin civilization, another scout watched and waited to catch the rebellious whispers from their fellow warring civilization. The Atrix scout scurried low to the ground, a sly beetle, well known among its peers as being sure footed and quiet. Ducking under leaves, deep into the Fentrin terrify they watched as groups of animals passed by, as dusk fell over the sky until only moonlight remained. The beetle waited and waited and waited, their hope slowly dwindling as no whispers slipped through the trees, and no sound shook the leaves. But, as the murmurs of dawn began to appear on the horizon, a small fluttering of wings appeared in view, soon joined by a small council of insects, amphibians, and all manners of other creatures, huddled together in furtive whispers. The gathered council circled around the small fruit fly that had arrived first, and what they spoke about was the hope that both societies needed to rekindle peace. But even more shocking to the Atrix scout, was the account given by the fruit fly of the journey they had just returned from. A scouting mission to the Atrix civilization that had exceeded their expectations. They too had hidden groups, rebellions groups, and were desperate for peace between the nations. The hidden beetle realized in those moments that both civilizations had sent scouting groups to the other, and while the Fentrin scout had just returned from spying on the Atrix, they were still hidden among the leaves to watch the outcome. But parallel questions ran through the mind of the beetle: What to do now? Do they reveal themselves? Keep hiding and wait to discuss with the rest of the Atrix rebels? What if revealing themselves would mean ending the war sooner? What if the Fentrin thought that the scout was against them?
Caution whispered at the corners of the beetle’s mind, stressing that there was time to make decisions without being rash. But war is an emotional game to play, and buoyed by the hope running through them, impulsive thoughts began to creep at the edges of their mind. Everything that was happening, from the confirmation of another scout, to the desire of ending the war, to the way that the sun was peeking from just beyond the horizon, had a way of kindling unexpected courage within the beetle,and thus buoyed by the spark of possibility, they chose to act- dismissing the caution that had once been considered.
With a delicate flutter of its iridescent wings, the beetle emerged from the shadows of the leaves and landed gently on the branch beside the Fentrin scout. It paused, observing the scout's antennae twitching in surprise, and spoke rushedly before anyone could take action against them.
"Wait! Before anyone reacts, please hear me out," the Atrix scout began, its voice a blend of anxiety and determination. The Fentrin scout's antennae twitched, a mix of surprise and caution evident in its posture.
"I know this might be unexpected, but we share a common goal," the Atrix scout continued, its words measured now, attempting to convey sincerity and purpose. "I've been watching and listening, just like you. Our civilizations, separated by conflict, have been searching for peace. We both have hidden groups, rebellions yearning for a way out of this cycle of war."
The tension in the air was palpable as the two scouts, representatives of their warring civilizations, stood facing each other. Words continued to spill from the mouth of the beetle.
"We have an opportunity here," the Atrix scout urged, its voice steady now. "The council that gathered here among the leaves holds the key to change. They're discussing peace – our chance to end this war, to bring an era of understanding and cooperation. Imagine what we could achieve together, the Fentrin and the Atrix, united against the darkness of war."
A moment lapsed, as the Fentrin pondered the words of the scout, relaxing from their tense positions of seconds before as the unknown had revealed themselves into their midst.
The beetle continued: “As you’ve just revealed, you already know of our desires for peace. Confirmed by the scout sitting just now beside me. There will be questions and it will take time, but together we can end this war.”
Murmurs began to break out, whispers between the animals that had gathered to this council, to declare rebellion, and search for peace. This was what everyone had been hoping for, had been waiting for, but was it too good to be true? Could this truly be the path forward in ending the war?
The whispers drew to a close, the beetle from the Atrix waiting in suspense as a representative from the Fentrin approached.
“We too, want peace.” The Fentrin spoke calmly, boldly. “If you can get your band of rebels, all of your sympathizers, to meet with us tomorrow night- I think we can truly end this war.”
The beetle nodded quickly, assured that the impulsive actions taken with the reveal had paid off.
“Tomorrow then, at the boundaries edge, a fathom from the Kithrykk, in the clearing between the Kapok trees.”
Then rushing off, the scout raced back to the territory of the Atrix, between leaves and under branches, to gather every last member of their rebellion to meet with the Fentrin the next evening. They presented their rash actions to the group, but desperate in the need for peace, the Atrix rebels did not judge the impulsivity of their scout beyond a few weary words and thanks that everything had not crumbled to pieces. Instead, they scoured their lands for every rebel who wanted peace, who would be willing to walk to the territory edge, scared and hesitant and afraid, yet hopeful that this meeting could be the end of the war.
Thus the following evening, both the Atrix and the Fentrin traveled to the boundary edge, a fathom from the Kithrykk River , in the clearing between the Kapok trees. Among the groups were frogs and flies, reptiles and rats, birds and bees and beyond. As the two groups gathered, there was a moment of silence, both too unsure of what the next step was supposed to be. Hundreds had gathered here, the number of animals wanting for peace, willing to work for it, to move past the petty grudges and unsure squabbles of before still growing.
The two scouts that had started it all emerged at the center, staring solemnly at each other in recognition of the true might of this meeting. Looking around at those surrounding them, they began to speak of peace, of possibility, of ending the violence that had erupted between the two nations. And in that moment, peace was struck between the two civilizations. It wasn’t perfect, but even this simple meeting of minds, this showcase of communication and effort, of the hundreds of animals, from the Atrix and from the Fentrin meant that peace had been found. So few animals had stayed behind in their respective towns, and even those who had stayed had not wanted violence. They were just the cautious ones, the ones taking care of the children, the ones laid up with the injury, and the rare wild one. But the rest came, in groups of two and four and six, more and more animals heard whispers of a meeting for peace to be held at the boundary edge, and began arriving. The news spread like wildfire, quelling fights and lifting spirits with each new animal who heard the message. Exclamations and celebrations raced through both populations. Even the thought of peace had been enough to cease the violence between the two. In no small part, because their reason for fighting had been inconsequential and minuscule, egged on by fear and worry and grief. They knew that death of the young golden was a mystery, a sadness- but that blame could not be laid at each other. The Protectors had left in grief, but now, the Atrix and Fentrin had united in their goals, meeting together to triumph over the uneasy balance from the times before, to triumph over the war and the violence that they had created between them. At last, the war was over. They stayed in the clearing for hours, mingling between civilizations, mending fences and repairing the communication that they had torn asunder. Plans for trade and treaty, for visiting, for being went back and forth between the Atrix and the Fentrin, as they questioned how to proceed without the Protectors that once governed them, how to tolerate the threat of nature that plagued them, and how to keep the peace between them. It wasn’t perfect, but it was peace, a premonition to everyone around that with the right communication and the right drive, that this peace could and would last.
(Image and information about the Fruit Fly: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drosophila_melanogaster/)
(Image and information about the Beetle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beetle)
Part Five: But Endings Don’t Really End
“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.” -Louis L'Amour
And above them all, in the tallest branches of the Kapok trees, the Golden Protector Wasps watched over the two nations as they debated their peace. They were still grief struck, but they were satisfied. The mission that they had been sent on so long ago had finally been achieved, spawning a true peace between the two civilizations, and not just one enforced by nature’s threats. Neither the Atrix or the Fentrin needed a protector anymore. They had learned the lessons that nature had been trying to throw at them all along and while stumbles were certainly bound to be made, it was time for the two civilizations to be free to make them, unencumbered by a supernatural watcher, to reap both the consequences and rewards of their actions in the true flow of nature. So the Golden Wasps let go of the hold that they had on the river, of the raging currents that they had conquered and tamed. They let go of the hold that they had on the wind, of the gusts and billows that they knew so well. They let go of the hold that they had on the trees, of the weave of twigs and branches they had coaxed into sheltering them. They let go of the hold that they had on the sun, of the direction they had of its burning gaze. Nature would still surge here, still rush and burn and blow, but it would be lesser, uncontrolled by anger or grief, yet also untamed by a watchful overseer. With the cession of their hold, the Golden Protector Wasps descended just below their hold of branches, just visible to those celebrating below. They sent one last command to the wind in the area, carrying their whispers down to spread among the civilizations, a final goodbye to those who cared for so long. A final encouragement to sustain the peace that had been fought for during their absence. And with those final whispers, the Golden Protector Wasps left. They left the Kapok trees and the Kithrykk River. They left the Atrix and the Fentrin civilizations behind, and all of the animals that they had once looked after. They were driven by a new goal now, driven to find and quell chaos somewhere else, to find a place that needed a Protector, be it for weeks or for years. For here, a lesson had finally been learned, and a story had finally been told.
An Author’s Note:
When I first started writing this, I did not realize what a challenge it was going to end up being. I rarely write long fiction, and I severely underestimated what 5000 words was going to be. Luckily for me, the deadline was extremely long- and by the time I had a little over 3000 words, I was committed to finishing up the piece, as I wasn’t about to let the pages of writing I already had languish in a google doc never to be seen again. Since, as I said in the beginning: Existence is a Story, and with every story, someone has to keep writing. Thank you!
My phone remembers more of last night than I do
from a blend of blurry faces and bathroom floors
and a credit bar bill with a tab higher than I remember drinking
between the round of shots and my spiked lemonade
and the line of boys I was telling my name
and there were hands at my waist and lips at my neck
lost in a haze of drunken consent
It is 2 in the morning and I’m still awake.
A dull pounding sits low in the back of my skull.
The screen of my phone flashes at me.
My alarm is already set to go off at 8.
I lie still in bed for hours, silently begging for the lull of sleep.
I can feel my heart beating through my ears, a low heat, a small thrum that proves I’m still alive.
The pounding travels down my back, through my spine.
It rests, like Atlas, on my shoulders.
I am told, time and time again, that the answer itself is time.
That my body has to forget the trauma, the grief, the stress that has etched itself into my bones.
My body tells me that it has not had enough time.