i know nothing, and that’s the whole point
and what did it take, in the end? when did it begin? i think
it was drowning in starlight and seeing your face
in the constellations. i think it was when i said that
there are not enough words in all of our tongues
to come close to saying how much i love you and i think
it was where i ended and you began and you ended and i began. i think
there's a certain kind of infinity nobody wants to name,
because naming things takes away their magic. i think
it was burning up in the midday sun with
my blood turning golden with imagined glory and turning
to see you smiling the same wild smile back at me. i think
it was from driving down the highway listening to indigo girls. i think
it was under the light of the blue moon, stranded
in a parking lot out in the countryside, immune to fear
for just a moment because hell, we're all under the same sky after all.
and isn't that a special sort of idea? don't make a word for it.
i'll immortalize my epiphany in my memory, and
there's no need to understand it. there's no need to quantify infinity.
de las estrellas y la noche
las estrellas eran como los sueños -- estaban lejos de mis manos,
y ahora en el presente ¿cómo puedo describirlas? en mis sueños
la luna y el sol eran llorando y cuando ellos les dijieron
que la noche irá obscuro, olvidé todos mis quehaceres de la luz.
mis ideas del futuro eran tan importante, y mis deseos tan grande
pero perdí todo en el cielo. y ahora, la idea de la luz --
¿cómo puedo describirla? ya no sé, no sé, no sé.
ya es la noche, y la luz del sol es un memoria distante.
there’s a little part of my bank account i’ve marked off for buying my friends’ novels
i’ll get it signed, of course, my perfect cornered
shiny covered first edition copy, and your name will spill
across the front pages, like a brand. i think
it’ll go up on my bookshelf, in some place of honor, and
i’ll love it forever of course but then
before i’ve even broken its spine i’ll buy your book
again, but this time in as a mass-market paperback, the kind
with the thin pages that almost tear under your fingertips and the
short, squat shape. that’s the one i’ll bring with me when I go to college,
you know, and it’ll end up thrown on my covers and
skated under my bed — the razor edges will get bent, pristine cover
wavy from unexpected rainstorms and misjudged page turns.
i won’t dog-ear the pages, but trust me when i say that there will be
dents in the pages from when I slide my finger in to mark my place.
and when your novel gets published -- when it’s there
in my hands? i think something is going to settle right
in my chest. did you know your world feels like coming home?
i want to meet your characters. i’m convinced i already have.
listened to a song you said you liked the other day and i
could almost see you, hunched over in the middle of the night
typing on your google documents, humming along to the lyrics. i
could almost your characters lip-syncing along to the lyrics.
i was crying a little, but i was at work so i pretended it was just
an aftereffect of my sneezing the minute before.
but you know what, my boss is an author, and i think she understands
just a little bit. shelved one of her books on the library shelf
and i laughed, but then i thought that maybe somebody
felt the same way about her when she got published. like maybe
that book could make you feel warm inside, like maybe
the sun was filling up your whole body with gold.
and when your novel gets published, i want to
document that feeling forever and trap it in the pages of
the novel you made with your own two hands.
sometimes i want to have been raised by whales, but then i realize i’d never have met you
drown me in your love; god i want to sink
into your eyes -- those starbursts of amber. they taunt me.
and won’t you look into my eyes and say they look like stars
dying in the blackness? i want that validation. did you know that
i have always dreamed of you, and the sea, and birds
taking flight. it may be a metaphor or just a dream but
wouldn’t it be nice to come home to salty lips and wild smiles?
i want to be born of the sea, raised by the waves because
have you ever heard the whales sing? i want to tell you of it,
of how my heart can be shared like that. just ask me and i’ll sing:
meeting you was like drowning. was like finally breathing.
this summer sky is so beautiful, but still it is not enough. i long for
your eyes. your grays and ambers make my heart whole like
blue never will. your eyes are the color of the sea of my dreams.
a thousand paper memories
there are times when you forget.
there is much you forget but this especially, the way paper can fold
between your fingers, crackling along false seams.
it yields. small shapes and perfect angles, just how you asked for it.
the truth is that you don’t even need to see the way the sticky note bends anymore;
there is trust between the two of you, unspoken agreements about ancient arts,
and in the end it all comes down to this:
you fold your friend a crane and she gives you back a dove.
concerning immortals and flatbread
“Remind me why I’m letting you crash at my place,” Soren mutters after the second straight week of walking into his tiny apartment to find it an absolute disaster. The boy looks up absently - Finian, his name is Finian, Soren needs to remember that - from his nest of empty takeout containers and blankets. He’s got flatbread in his mouth, apparently caught midchew, the rice and vegetables threatening to topple off the remainder of bread in his hand. Soren cringes - he’ll never hear the end of it if the carpet gets stained beyond repair - and tries not to look horrified as he throws his keys and coat on the table.
Finian doesn’t seem to have heard Soren at all, but even if he did hear Soren neither of them have been very good at getting the point of what they’re saying across. Being frozen in an iceberg for over a thousand years seems to have horrible effects on communication - who knew? Every day Soren spends with Finian does wonders for science.
The sheer number of things he does that defy modern laws is staggering. Soren has lost count, but he never ceases to be amazed. His latest discovery: the boy doesn’t bleed.
“No die,” Finian explained haltingly after two days, when Soren caught the boy wandering outside in the heavy traffic of the city. Somebody rammed him hard but the boy just slid across the hood of the car and continued to walk as if nothing had happened. So if Finian wanted to claim immortality Soren was willing to believe him.
Did all immortals take over your apartments and compulsively buy everything on the meals app you showed them how to use? Or was this boy, sitting in the last shaft of buttery afternoon sunlight peeking through a gap in the curtains, somehow different even among legends?
“Good food,” Finian says happily. He examines the bottom of the latest takeout container and sighs with disappointment upon finding it empty.
“That’s nice,” Soren says absently. Coffee - he needs coffee to deal with this boy, he has learned that over the past fourteen days and even before that, on the little expedition boat with Lara, trying to understand words in a foreign language nobody’s spoken in a long time. Soren growls deep in his throat upon discovering the boy has taken the liberty of unplugging every appliance in the kitchen.
“Did you unplug the television too?” he snaps. Finian looks up, startled, his green eyes bright and wide. Who, me? his expression screams.
“Tele- telli - telviz —”
“Tel - ah - vish - on,” Soren sounds out.
“Tellyvzhon,” Finian says triumphantly. “Yes, I like.”
“Did you unplug it?”
Soren brandishes the coffeemaker plug at the boy in an attempt to get his point across.
“Ah,” Finian says, perking up. “No, I kept plugged.”
The television is off, but Soren sees the shape of a remote hidden under the brown paper napkins littering the floor and he wonders if Finian accidentally turned the television off and forgot how to turn it back on. He’s immortal but I can’t even have a simple conversation with him, Soren thinks to himself.
He phones Lara. He does that a lot, even more than before the expedition. If they hadn’t found Finian, he doesn’t know how things would have turned out, what with declarations of love and all, but with Finian they’ve got an excuse to talk to each other every chance they get.
“Lara, I don’t know if I can keep hiding him in my apartment,” Soren says in a rush as soon as she picks up the phone. “He keeps unplugging things! And my wallet can’t stand his outrageous eating habit much longer.”
“He’s still eating?”
“Yes, yes, of course he’s still eating. I have a literal immortal crashing at my place and I can’t even teach him basic speech so we can talk about half the things he knows because he’s always got his mouth full with flatbread,” Soren hisses. “Can’t you take him for a few days? Just so I can get the stains out of my carpet, Lara, please—”
“You know I’ve got the boss over for the informal dinner party this weekend,” Lara sighs into the phone, her whistly exhale crackling along the speaker. “After that - maybe. If nothing else, I could always take him out to see a museum or something, even if it’s only for an afternoon.”
“A museum,” Soren breathes. “Lara, you’re a genius.”
“I’m a scientist, dear. Not quite the same, but close enough. Keep flattering me and I might share the credit for my paper on the ruins we found in the desert with you.”
“That one’s all yours,” Soren mutters. “I hate deserts. Nasty places.”
“Excuse me,” Lara yelps, indignant. “They’re wonderful! I will not have you shitting on deserts if you expect me to drag any strange thousand-year-old beings to see ancient history.”
“Okay, okay. Deserts are… okay places.”
There’s a click on the other end, the sound of a pen. Lara shifts her phone - Soren can hear her moving and rustling. “I’ll take it. Now, where should I bring the iceberg boy?”
“Finian, his name is Finian—”
Soren pauses and casts a glance at the boy, now wrapped up in a blanket and watching the television with fascination. It seems he figured out how to turn it on again, but Soren is less interested in the way the remote is dangling precariously over a glass of water and more interested with Finian’s strange hair and skin tone.
“Hang on, do you know where he’s from?”
“No. Finding out information about him is your job, Soren. Being a historian and scholar of ancient civilizations and all.”
Soren huffs. “You’re paying for this, you know.”
“Paying for what?”
“His meal of bribery.”
Soren hangs up on Lara’s protests and approaches Finian cautiously. “What do you want to eat?” he asks, carefully, slowly. The boy stares up at Soren for a moment before grinning widely.
“More flatbread,” Finian says cheerfully. “I like flatbread.”
the art of not letting go
“You can’t really expect me to believe you like eating those things,” Damion said, gesturing to Bara’s little tub of hard-boiled eggs, shaking with laughter and something else. Derision? Anger?
"They're delicious," Bara protests.
"They're disgusting, and I hate the fact that they exist."
Bara sulks for a moment, forcing his last bite of egg down, pressing his palms down into the comfortingly solid wooden bench underneath him. Beside him, Damion swings his legs, already forgetting about the eggs and the terrible crime of liking them — he has spotted a couple madly in love on the other side of the street.
“Think they’re something special!” he’s crowing, jeering, but Bara thinks it’s just because Damion’s been trying to get a date for three years now and hasn’t gotten so much as a warm smile yet. Huffing to himself, and shoving another egg into his mouth whole — Ellie always hates when he does that, and now it’s a habit — Bara checks his phone.
Another notification from Ellie. She’s saying something about how stupid it is that he should get the car when he’s just going to waste his time at a game store, but at this point it’s not anything Bara hasn’t heard already.
“Anything from Jax?” Damion asks, leaning aggressively on Bara’s shoulder so that he nearly drops the phone.
“No,” Bara grumps. “Get off, would you?”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Damion mutters, and Bara would wonder if he’d hurt Damion’s feelings but there’s no point. Damion’s always been a sort of horribly shallow person, the kind that you could never rely on; this ‘grave insult’ would be forgotten in only a few moments.
A message comes through - now it’s Jax — and Bara nearly chokes on his eggs.
“He’s not coming,” Bara says.
“Huh? Why not?”
Bara shows Damion his screen, and the other boy reads, slowly, “Unlike you losers, I have gotten myself a very hot date.”
There’s a pause and then a shout of “He got a date?”
Bara leans back, lacing his hands behind his head so that the phone is hidden from Damion, and he watches passerby with feigned interest as Damion throws a small tantrum. His phone buzzes again — Bara has a feeling that it’s Jax again, with another dig probably aimed at Damion.
“Right, okay,” Damion says eventually his black hair sticking up everywhere, brown eyes wild. “We’re going to have the time of our lives here, without Jax, and it is going to be amazing.”
Bara raises his eyebrows and checks the nearest clock, already trying to estimate when his friend will have lost interest in the nearest video game arcade. He’s giving it ten minutes, generously.
“Sure thing,” he says.
“And that’s how I ended up here,” Bara ends lamely, tapping on the countertop with just his pointer finger, and then his pointer and middle fingers together. From across the counter, the woman nods, running a finger along the edge of her nose piercing thoughtfully. Her nametag reads “N.” She likes to say it stands for Nonna, but it might stand for Natasha just as easily.
“So here you are,” she says, voice quiet and soft. “Back so soon, eh?”
“Yeah, I suppose so.”
The only sounds are the tinny mall music pouring in from outside the little storefront, the scratching of Bara’s nails, and the burbling crowd. Bara breaks the silence, first, being far more impatient and younger than Nonna.
“Can I see that book again?” he asks. “I know the binding’s not fixed yet, but…”
“Oh,” Nonna says, tapping her lip with one acrylic nail. “I fixed it, actually. Last night. Do you want it back?”
She withdraws a small package, wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine, and Bara wants to laugh because what is this? the Era of Legends? but he reaches for it anyways.
And then he hesitates, just long enough that Nonna raises her eyebrows. His phone buzzes, and Bara has never been more glad for a distraction, but then he sees the sender and his heart dies halfway up his throat.
“Do you mind?” he asks Nonna. “It’s my sister.”
He opens the text, feels his hard-boiled eggs rise up from his stomach. Gagging, he reaches out for the counter to steady himself.
Hey, remember Ikara? What a simple question.
But now he’s thinking of a wild night, where they’d gotten drunk on some alcohol they’d filched from the basement, and there was the flash of Ellie’s smile and the shout “I’m going to be a sorcerer!” and a roof. And the next day, after the hangover had passed but when the bitterness still remained, where Bara had thrown a book — this book, actually — at his twin, afraid and scared and hurt, so utterly terrified that he would lose his sister to fairy-tales.
He texts something back, something meaningless that Ellie won’t look at twice, and wishes with all his heart that Ellie could be more like Damion, now pressing his face against the windows of the antiques and used bookstore. Able to let things go.
“Could you hold on to that for me?” he asks. “Just for a little while.”
“Sure thing,” Nonna says, drawing out the words. “Keep care of your sister, kid.”
As Bara leaves, he thinks her eyes are a little too blue to be natural. But then Damion’s tugging him on to the half-price pretzels down by the big department store and Bara lets it go.
for a land that doesn’t exist
Dreams are beautiful things.
So are the stars.
So imagine, then, dreaming of the stars. They are not our stars - not the constellations we have known for millennia - but they are still somehow so very familiar. Do you need to know something to be in awe of it?
There is a voice in your ear, whispering names and legends, and you let yourself lean into the sound of that unseen narrator. A small folk tale is all it takes to enrapture you.
This is not your home. You know this. But it is your home.
Have you ever seen these kinds of trees before? They are so tall, so proud. Leafy boughs and scented pine and twisting ivy and it is all so green even in the moonlight. The lake in the distance is crystalline, filled with stars and moons upon moons of silver light, and it laps against the shores with immeasurable patience.
It is all so beautiful in the moonlight.
There is a breeze among the forest trees, and out of the corner of your eye you swear you can see a woman made of leaves and bark move. She winks at you, laughing, but when you turn your head for a closer look --
She is gone. It must have been your imagination.
You will wake up the next morning with words in a foreign language spilling from your lips. In the moment before you fully resurface from your dreams you will say "Ikara."
In that moment, you will feel more alive than you have ever felt before.