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unfoldandfall · 7 months ago
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Bleak House
“And I am bored to death with it. Bored to death with this place, bored to death with my life, bored to death with myself.” - Charles Dickens, Bleak House 
It starts in the Basement
Or the hideout, as we so affectionately coined it as kids. It used to be a haven for hide-and-seek with no shortage of closets and cupboards to house stifled giggles and gentle shhhhhhs. 
Now, it’s just where dad hides under the guise of another football game, where mom is too detached to point out that there are no football games on Tuesday evenings in March. The stale, moldy air felt safe in the absence of upstairs’ screaming matches and tumultuous tiffs. 
But always finds its way to the Upstairs Bathroom 
Which supplies steamy rose air throughout the house via the laundry chute. This is where mom lets herself soak (both in the grimy water disguised by the flowery-scented bubbles and the heavy burden of failure disguised by her numb expression.)
She never did understand that your children are only 50% of what you try to make them be, and if they aren’t 100% of the subjective potential you laid out for them in your head, then you failed at the one thing you were put on this Earth to do. Not only offer new life to the world but offer the world to that new life.
To be fair to her, though, it’s not like what she made was just a little different from the picture. As evidenced by my sister, who spends all her time in the Attic
Where she swears she was banished to, but I know that’s just the monster expressing her intense fear of abandonment in the strangest of ways.
She found out about the monster when she was 16, but I was only 9. We left the doctor and mom explained to me that sometimes the things my sister says aren’t really her, that they’re words from a mean little gremlin that found its way into her head. Even as I sit here 10 years later, as I still haven’t left the house and she still hasn’t left the house and she still screams, “I hate you, don’t leave me,” with every word she says—even now, I still let it hurt me. Each verbal jab the kindling to the nocturnal fire that pushes me from my bed and whisks me in a sleep-walking haze to the Kitchen 
Because a glass of water fixes everything, right? You have a headache—how much water have you had today? You’re having trouble focusing—how much water have you had today? You’re crumbling under the weight of the unspoken heartache you absorb from everyone around you—how much water have you had today?
The glass I pressed into the belly of the fridge to retrieve this rumored-to-heal liquid begins to overflow, dribbling down the front, coating old art projects and ignored wedding invitations with its tears. Everything feels worse at 3 a.m. And I know that with morning light we’ll tuck our trepidations behind the doors of
The Study
Read, the nexus of wasted potential
Where unused degrees and long-forgotten awards sit dusty and abandoned. Photos line the faded wallpaper, boasting better times—when we know they only looks better because we’ve overcome them already, but we were just as miserable then. There’s something almost cozy about this one, surrounded by books I would read and get lost in if I were a better person. But it’s still not mine, not this room. 
While each member of my family finds a safe haven in their chosen spot, no room invites me to become one with it, to sink into it until morning. Because the house rests on my shoulders, my bones the foundation and my skin the wind-breaking siding. 
And in this house—that on the spectrum of “feels so much” and “feels nothing at all” sits so far to the left—I’m here cradling these things I think, hopelessly reaching to keep them from sinking into my heart like a person trying to wrangle a cat that so desperately wants to be anywhere but here. Resist, deflect, deny, move forward. Carry it all. And stay bored.
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unfoldandfall · 9 months ago
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Hope Against Hope
My grandmother’s name was Emmaline Ellis. 
In their cloud of pre-partum bliss, my parents used to muse about what my older brother Brady would call our grandmother. Granny felt too dated, while we didn’t live south enough to use Mee-maw.
“They’ll call me Emmaline,” my grandmother had said. “My mama didn’t give name me so some little snotty babies could vie for repeating a one syllable.” 
So, my mother thought, “Gaga” is definitely out of the running.
When Brady and I were old enough to understand, we’d dance awkwardly around the matter, trying not to use any name at all. But Emmaline knew. 
“Call me by my name,” she’d urge. With her blessing, we were happy to comply. 
Our favorite thing to do was curl up in Emmaline’s lap and fiddle with the puffy veins in her hand as she whispered stories in our ears—some real, others embellished with make-believe. 
Eventually, when we outgrew her, we pulled up our own chairs and fiddled with our own hands, waiting anxiously for the day’s tale. 
As soon as Emmaline set dinner on the table, she would take her seat, clear her throat, and swarm us with her peace. Her presence was magic, even to Brady, whose frame softened as he sunk into the wooden kitchen chair. 
Above the table hung a faded plank of wood with a phrase carved haphazardly into it: “Hope against hope.” 
It had belonged to Emmaline’s husband—we were allowed to call him grandpa—and he’d made it himself one particularly dim afternoon. Our mom didn’t know it, but he worked on it as she spoke with him on the phone, carving each letter carefully as he eventually worked up the nerve to tell her he was dying of pancreatic cancer. 
Brady and I did homework in stuffy hospital waiting rooms as our mom attended consult after consult with different oncologists, each one clearer than the last: At this stage in his life, it was best for my grandfather to take peace where he can get it and fade comfortably. But this last one still gave him the option of treatment, and that was the only option he heard.  
My grandpa passed away last March, and despite her deep sadness, Emmaline’s conviction remained unwavering. She hung grandpa’s sign above her favorite table, where she always sat with her favorite people. From then on, she coined it “the hope table.”
“Here, we talk about the worst,” Emmaline would say. “But we hope for the best. Hope against hope.”
As a family, we continued to gather around the table to share meals, conversation, and simple bliss—it wasn’t a place reserved for bad news, where your heart would drop when asked to sit. Most days, we’d sit in each other’s company, anxiety assuaged by Emmaline’s presence alone. 
Still, some days were reserved for sad confessions and sober conversations. 
The first time Brady hit a girl, he cowered in shame as he recalled the event for Emmaline. The arms of the wooden chair where he sat made him appear smaller. 
Emmaline sat for a long time, staring at the sign about the hope table, before finally speaking. She told Brady she loved him, and could she teach him to bake cherry pie? 
Brady never said I love you to anyone. But the way he gently pinched the corners of the dough-y pie crust, careful and stay, was his own I love you too. 
“This is how you stay gentle,” Emmaline said. “The world is full of poison, and it will make rage bubble inside you like a witch’s cauldron. But you must treat each soul you meet like the delicate crust of a yet-baked pie. There is strength in careful reservation.”
A single, sloppy tear slipped from Brady’s eye before he could catch it, landing stubbornly in the middle of the pan he worked on. 
“Could’ve used a little salt,” Emmaline said, moving on as quickly as she acknowledged Brady’s pain. How did she always know the right thing to say? 
It was a question my mom asked herself years prior when she took her place at this table.
At that time, Emmaline didn’t have a hint of grey in her fire-y orange hair. My mom recalled looking up at her own mother, mesmerized by her milky white skin just long enough to forget the confession hiding beneath her tongue. 
“OK, what is it?” Emmaline asked, catching my mom off guard—she hadn’t exactly expressed that this would be a “hope table” type of conversation. She thought they were just sitting down for dinner. 
My mother opened her mouth, willing an excuse to dance through, putting off the conversation just a little longer. But before she could speak, Emmaline interrupted. 
“Let’s get it over with together, OK? The two of us.” She grabbed my mother��s hands from across the table. 
“Maybe… the three of us?” My mother choked, her breath catching on the word “three.” 
“OK, and who do we have joining us?” Emmaline asked calmly. 
“I think I’ll name him Brady,” my mom responded, a gentle hand resting on her belly. 
“That’s a nice name,” Emmaline said. “There’s a lot of power in a name.” 
“It means ‘spirited’,” my mom offered slowly, like she was stepping across a rickety bridge, waiting for the board that would finally betray her. 
“He’ll be a spritely one, then,” Emmaline nodded. “Do you want to talk about how this happened?” 
It was “yes or no” sort of question, but my mother knew there wasn’t much of a choice. She proceeded to relay how she met Brady’s father, how she knew it was stupid, but she thinks they’re in love. How they, wrong or not, felt excited to share this experience together. But she was scared, oh, was she scared. All along, the board never slipped, the bridge never broke. Emmaline, strong and steady, carried her through. 
“How did you know it would be OK?” my mom asked Emmaline as she cradled a newborn Brady in her arms. My father had taken a seat on the sofa a few steps back, allowing the matriarchs their space. The beeps and buzzes of the small hospital room faded away when Emmaline grabbed her hand, giving it a little squeeze. 
“I didn’t,” Emmaline said finally. “I just hoped. Hope against hope.”
As I entered the small attached kitchen of Emmaline’s home, I kept thiatstory close to my heart, knowing it was my turn. Seeing Emmaline resting in her lazy gal chair (lazy boy was sexist), I noticed her skin looked crisp over supple, tinged over glowing. She was older and more frail now, and getting up was a struggle. But I knew we had to sit at the hope table. 
I had driven over by myself, not out of secrecy, but because after his incident, Brady and I became less of a “we.” And I didn’t think I could feel any more lonely—or empty. 
The emptiness in my stomach became more apparent as Emmaline lowered herself into the rickety kitchen chair, more trusting of the withered wood than her own bones to hold her up. I swallowed, trying to soothe the stomach acid hanging from the top of my throat. 
“We’re here,” Emmaline noted, nodding at the table in front of her, emphasizing how we were no longer perched side-by-side in her living room recliners. “You have something on your heart.” 
Her statement was her own observation, but I felt like it was affirmation I needed. I wondered if she knew. 
It was true—I had chains dangling from my heart, weighing it down, making it heavy. I thought perhaps I couldn’t be a monster, because a monster couldn’t hold this deep sadness in the well of its heart. But then, I thought, maybe that’s how monsters are made. 
“No use in keeping it any longer,” Emmaline said. “Give it here.” 
She held out her hand as if expecting me to offer my pain right over the table, but instead, I let my hand rest gently in hers, wincing at the thought of her pulling away once she knew what happened. 
“I did something bad,” I said finally. 
“Start with what happened, not your judgments,” Emmaline said. 
“Can I ask you a question first?” 
Her nod and small smile were warmth for my shaky soul. 
“Why do you insist on being called by your first name?” I asked. 
“I like what it represents,” she said thoughtfully. “Emmaline means ‘peaceful home.’”
It was curious to me how Emmaline’s mother, my great grandmother, would know what she would be for the world, for our family. But maybe, I thought, she created it more than she predicted it. 
“There’s importance in every name,” Emmaline said, interrupting my thoughts. “I told your mother that at a very young age.”
“Like with Brady?” I asked. 
“She thought she made a mistake, went against everything I taught her as a girl. But she did the very thing I always instilled in her: Created meaning, cherished identity, and fostered life.” 
I winced, but spoke before I lost my courage. 
“I named her Aisling,” I said, the tears in my eyes tampering with my voice. “But I didn’t keep her.”
I thought I saw Emmaline’s own eyes start to glisten, but with a few blinks, she composed herself. She didn’t pull her hand back. 
“It means hopeful,” I said. 
“Hopeful dream, actually,” she responded. “I think that’s very significant. I imagine that’s where you’ll get to visit with her.” 
I choked back a sob, wanting to remain present in the moment, not wanting to hand over the pain I cause, lopping it in Emmaline’s lap. I looked at her knowingly. 
“I don’t actually know if she’s a girl,” I said. “Was a girl. It was too early to know.”
“You know your own child,” Emmaline said. It was the first time I saw any ounce of uncertainty flash across her face as she spoke. 
“I don’t know how I’m going to get through this,” I said, starting to pull my hand away to cradle my guilt. Emmaline wouldn’t budge.
“You know exactly how you’re going to get through this,” she said. “Hope. Against hope.”
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unfoldandfall · a year ago
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Grip
We’ve all done it. As children, we’ve sunk into a shifty bean bag, staring up at glow-in-the-dark stars strewn half-hazardly across the ceiling. The room’s glow laced with a sister’s gentle breathing makes the perfect recipe for candy-laced dreams and conjured up fantasy lands.
Growing older, we shed our innocence through our skin and energy through our baby teeth. The world around us darkens, hollows, decays. Rose-colored glasses are smashed in pieces on the ground we walk barefoot across.
We grasp at the edges of these undefined but ideal worlds we’ve crafted. Of all that leaves us, our soul blankets stay wrapped around our shoulders, helping us cope with the evils we thought we’d never face.
No one understood this better than Marrett. She’d learned it from her mother.
She tugged her skirt over her bony knees, tucking away her secrets under the guise of a high school girl. Marrett was used to watching things slip away from around her, but in the halls of her school, she didn’t grieve the experiences, the people, or the stories that ran away. 
“Mar, wait!” called a voice from behind her. Her heart froze along with her feet. Ember, she thought. Something she couldn’t let slip.
“You need shorter legs. I was about to call an Uber just to catch up,” he said as he finally caught up. She wasn’t sure if his panting was theatrical or sincere.
“Sorry,” Marrett breathed.
“Man, not even a pity laugh?” Ember nudged, suddenly shy. Slipping.
She fought the urge to offer another sad “sorry.” She was always saying sorry.
Marrett’s mother had wild eyes.
On bad days, Marrett thought they looked wicked. As she made her way down the stairs, careful to skip the fifth and seventh steps—they were the creakiest—Marrett said her silent prayers that she could successfully creep past her and make it to school. 
She felt her mother’s eyes before she saw them. The heat of her glare raged beneath Marrett’s skin. Her slimy smirk made way for a toothy grin as Marrett tried to grab an apple and get out the door.
“Soon, Marrett,” her mother said, her lips moving but smile unwavering. Baptised with a wave of cold sweat, Marrett caught the bus.
Mar belongs with the sirens Ember thought. She was a hurricane that disseminated as a gentle, fresh mist. Soothing and inviting.
He made his way toward her locker as he did every morning, shrugging off yesterday’s interaction in favor of a new day. Ember couldn’t move without hope.
He saw her mouse-blonde hair, almost grey, swinging around her shoulders as she made her way down the hall. She was slow to approach, using every trick in the book to appear to walk normally.
She hated it about herself, but to Ember, she was precious: A baby bird waddling through the world, discovering. She’d buy special shoes to fit her bum foot, but her long skirts always hid it anyway. He never wanted her to feel ashamed. 
“You just think I’m strange,” she’d said one day. “That’s why you can’t look away. Your brain can’t process it.” 
There was a part of her statement that wasn’t wrong: Being in Marrett’s presence felt like a rapture. She was an enigma, a contradiction, a poem: feral and clean. Everything about her made his face turn white-hot and half-wild.
“But why does strange, to you, mean not beautiful?” He asked. Marrett looked up at him with empty eyes. “Because you are. Beautiful, I mean,” he confirmed.
It was the only time he’d seen the river of blue veins behind her translucent skin fade, the faintest red taking its place across her cheeks.
He’d held onto that single sign, even today as he finally met her eyes when she approached.
“Hey,” she’d said, her face softening. He saw the faintest shadow of a dried tear on her cheek, something he would have missed if the light hadn’t hugged her face just right. 
Ember decided to be bold. He grabbed her icy hand as gently as possible, feeling the slender bones lace between his own fleshy fingers, igniting a flutter of energy between them.
They made brief eye contact, and Ember noticed something clouding the emptiness in Marrett’s eyes. Something like hope.
Marrett never cut her hair because she was tired of letting things go.
More than anything, Marrett longed for something to sink her teeth into. Relationship or ritual—it didn’t matter. She just wanted something that wouldn’t rip and ruin her fingernails as she lost her grip.
She was starting to think Ember could be that something.
They were perched side by side on the warm asphalt by Ember’s beat up red LeSabre. Their backs to the dented door, Marrett finally felt a semblance of safety.
“What’re you thinking, Mar?” Ember asked finally. He started with a whisper, as if taking extra care to be gentle when willing away the quiet.
“Why do you call me Mar?” Marrett asked. It wasn’t what she was thinking about. Ember shrugged in response.
“Just a nickname. Short for Marrett.”
“Shouldn’t it be Mare, then? Like an old horse,” there was a disapproving acceptance in her voice.
“No. Mar.” They welcomed the quiet back like a baby blanket, gripped at it with their shaking, metaphorical hands. Finally, Ember spoke.
“You’re the sea,” he said, turning to face her. She could feel his eyes burning into her cheek, but she didn’t mind.
“What does that mean?”
“You’re brilliant. You’re gorgeous and rough. You’re hard to see into, but easy to get lost in.” 
Marrett looked down shyly, unsure of how to respond, but more so savoring the moment for what it was: love, belonging, security.
“And you persevere. You’re here and you’re you—no matter what. And, because of that, I don’t think you need to hold onto life so tight.”
➵ 
She thought maybe she had a death wish. Then again, she thought that was something people usually felt certain about. Enmeshed her mother’s world, though, Marrett wasn’t sure of anything due to the hollow void where her identity should have grown.
But sitting cross-legged on the attic floor, having just scrambled up the unstable staircase she’d pulled from the ceiling, mothballs falling in her hair, she felt a lot like a person with a death wish.
She leafed through the pages of her mother’s tattered journal, unsure of what exactly she was looking for. Clouds of pencil lead decorated her clammy fingers as she traced them across the darkened drawings.
Black, spider-y trees loomed over an infant in her crib, characterized by light shading over college-ruled paper. Underneath, scrawled in almost illegible letters, was the name, “Marisol.” There were several iterations of this drawing regenerated across most of the pages.
As she thumbed further through the notebook, the drawings evolved before her. Something sinister devoured the pages, swallowing up the newborn in its crib. As the darkness changed from looming to laying its heavy hand, she saw the scraggly letters change: Marisol to Marresol to Marrett. 
She dropped the notebook, suddenly startled though not exactly sure why. She didn’t have the courage to pick it up again, but willpower is stronger than bravery. She flipped to the last page, this one without any drawings. Just words.
 Child
Mother
Love
Taken
Stolen
Hurt
Marisol
 On the other side of the page, another grouping of words:
Imposter
Oaf
Drown, no, slit
Gray
Replacement
Evil bitch
Hurt Marrett
 Marrett gasped, this time not dropping the notebook so much as throwing it. Descending the staircase as quickly as her damned foot would allow, she launched the stairs back to their place in the attic, securing it shut. Barefoot and dizzy, her vision tunneled, highlighting the large oak door that stood between her and freedom.
Not just freedom she thought. Refuge.
She prayed once more as she made her through the living room, thanking God for the alcohol that paralyzed her mother who slept heavy in the tattered arm chair by the door. As she left her childhood home (two words she didn’t identify with) for the last time, a glint of shiny silver caught her eye. She was in no place to look back and confirm, but she was certain it was the blade of a paring knife resting on her mother’s lap.
“Please let me help you,” Ember pleaded. Anyone else may have thought it good luck that Ember drove down the rainy street where Marrett fled. Maybe even divine intervention.
But Marrett found it unfavorable.
“I don’t need help,” Marrett scowled, with a subconscious understanding of how ridiculous that sounded as she dragged her bare feet across the bumpy asphalt, her white nightgown soaked through with rain, revealing the body no one taught her to care for.
“Mar,” Ember said, softer this time. It filled Marrett with a rage she didn’t know she had in her. What was once a comforting warmth now seemed to scorch her skin.
Ember stopped walking toward her.
“What happened to you? Can I do something? Did I do something?” he pleaded.
She shook her head as an expression she didn’t quite recognize crept across her face. It looked like understanding.
 “I’m too much,” he said, somehow both sadly and sympathetically. “I’m burning you up.”
Marrett didn’t speak.
“The girl who could never let go. I singed her fingers one by one.” 
“It’s not you,” she responded, fighting the lump in her throat. “I was never meant to be here. I don’t belong. I don’t know how.”
Ember couldn’t find right words for her. Before he had a chance to fumble through it, Marrett turned and began walking—slow and steady—down the rainy street. Moving forward, she built pink castles and cotton candy clouds around her. Conjured the glow of sunset to fill the empty spaces inside her.
She traded the things in her pocket—safety, love, hope—for the one thing she’d never had: Control.
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house-ad · 2 months ago
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unfoldandfall · a year ago
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GLOAMING
The smell of sea mist was tangible. Salt-laced ocean air kissed the top of Laney’s head. Though the medicinal breeze was a welcomed visitor to her dry throat, it caused the split ends of her unkempt hair to tickle her nose, willing her awake. 
She shifted, feeling the dampness of her sheets beneath her—the dampness of her hair enveloping her. When consciousness finally won the tug-of-war with dream, Laney willed herself to sit up and force the rickety window shut, realizing it was letting in the rain. 
This moment just before light: Where sunrise quickly evolves from expectation to experience, gave Laney the most concrete sense of calm she would experience all day. Each passing minute brought her closer to the gloaming, heightening her senses as they went. 
Muscle memory cursed her as she carried herself out of bed, trying to shake images of the night before. She had risen, dizzy, as she often did less than an hour after drifting off. Instinct had spun her around to face the bed, where she saw a peaceful figure sound asleep, breathing softly. Contract, relax. 
The scene would be quite peaceful if it didn’t act as a mirror. Laney never became used to seeing herself sleeping soundly. Though gentle, it was as if the figure took all of her peace in order to produce the aura of serenity that surrounded her. There was nothing left. 
Laney’s fists clenched over fear like pine needles—rough and prickly. She was no stranger to this harrowing experience, but the intensity never wore off. 
There is something so cruel about being forced to look at yourself from the outside. 
Am I her, or am I me? Repeats over and over in Laney’s head as she loses her grip, the world spinning. While she watched her own body lay quiet, soothed under the moonlight, she became intensely aware of her present dwelling nestled uncomfortably in the dark. Uncomfortable, but it belonged. 
It begins. 
Maddened, Laney lets out a guttural cry that she didn’t recognize, unsure whose body it came from, unsure which body she could claim. Shaking this quiet figure in desperation, she feels herself slip from reality into rage. From body to red dust. 
Losing to the darker half of herself, she couldn’t convince herself that the gloaming was running its course, soon to spit her out on the other side. Walking the tightrope between self and shadow, she broke. Dread danced with doom. Not knowing whether this descent into darkness was permanent sleep or simply night taking over, Laney collapsed into herself, surrounded by damp air, minutes closer to concrete calm.
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unfoldandfall · a year ago
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friction
“I’m starting to really appreciate friction.”
He wasn’t sure if he heard that quite right. In fact, he wasn’t entirely sure he heard her speak at all, her eyes fixated on the waxy, bumpy orange wobbling on the conveyor belt in front of her. 
But she looked up expectantly, her eyes filled with water that didn’t look sad. It was like her body was priming them for discovery. 
“Yeah?” 
The only word that forced itself from the edge of his lips. Stupid.
“Yeah. I used to hate it. You know when you would make a greeting card out of construction paper as a kid?”
He assumed this question was rhetorical, but she paused, so he answered, “Yeah.”
The only word that never failed him.
“Well, that feeling when you fold the paper and run your fingers down it, creating the perfect crease… that little bit of heat that’s generated between your fingers? I hate it. It makes my teeth hurt.” 
He laughed softly, not sure he understood but intrigued all the same. 
“But now, I think I’m starting to appreciate it.” 
He realized he hadn’t yet moved her groceries forward on the belt, and she was standing down toward the end of the line with them, loyal to her sad-looking produce and pint of chocolate milk. She seemed to snap out of whatever thought pattern she was stuck in at the sound of the conveyor belt starting up, and he worried she took that as the end of the conversation. 
“So, why is that?” He’d never scanned seven items so slowly, pretended to look for the code for fruit, pretended he wasn’t waiting so intently. 
“Well, it makes things not so slippery, I guess,” she responded after a moment. “Gives you something to hold on to. Something that doesn’t let you go so easily.” 
He wasn’t entirely sure if the words were so enticing because they came from the fresh-faced, rose-scented woman before him, or simply because there was so much tucked inside of them. He’d craved meaning for so long while stuck here somersaulting through the same day—over and over again. Up. Toothbrush. Drive. Scan, bag, scan, bag, scan, bag. Diet Mountain Dew. Scan, bag, scan, bag. Drive. Bed. 
He didn’t mind habits. A frame to contain the story he painted for himself. But the sun set at the end of each day, and he still felt the same. Though young, though strong, it made him feel weary. 
“Hunter,” she said suddenly, and he nearly jumped, a bit startled. She must have calculated his expression quickly, because she laughed, her teeth peeking out from beneath her carmine lips, the smallest gap between them.
“Your name tag,” she said, pointing a delicate finger. Of course. 
He glanced down at the worn letters, the R nearly faded from the bottom, the plastic nearly boasting “HunteD” instead. 
“And you?” he managed. He was taken aback by her beauty, but simultaneously cringed at the thought. There was something about reducing women to words like “beautiful,” or “pretty,” that never sat right with him. Constantly outrunning his father’s misogyny, trying to be something different, Hunter rarely let a woman know what he thought of her looks. There was a reflexive shame that crept up his throat. 
“Tiger,” she responded. “I know it’s silly. My mom tells me to come up with a different explanation for it every time I’m asked… which, I guess you’d be privy to the lie, now that I’ve said that.” 
He smiled, “I don’t mind. Let’s hear a good lie.” 
He scanned her box of tampons—the final item—and she rummaged in her bag for cash as she started her tale. 
“Well, my father was conducting a series of experiments in Asia—specifically on invasive species in the Euphrates.” 
She giggled at her almost-rhyme, and he said a prayer that no one else would enter his line, forcing him to move on to the next boring customer. The next person with no meaning, like him.
“So, during one expedition, his research partner wanted to travel further east, looking for another comparative species to add to their field notes. My father tagged along, not knowing they would soon approach another river—the Tigris.
He knelt to inspect the waters, and from the corner of his eye, caught sight of a beautiful woman with long, silky black hair bathing at the edge of the river. He felt like he was watching a mythical creature and wondered if he should take notes, make a sketch, anything to never forget the moment. But she caught sight of him.
Her green eyes nearly glowed in the fading light, and when they met his, it was like the key that unlocked a smile she’d never felt before. 
They eventually spoke, and bathed, and walked along the river together, sharing secrets for hours. It was like he grabbed her hand for the first time, and she just never let go. Two humans had never been so perfectly sewn together, the seams barely visible in the union of their souls.
I was conceived along the bank of that river, and so I became: Tiger. The symbol of their timelines crossing, entangling, never unraveling. They were each the snag that caught the other before the fall. Something to hold on to.”
She smiled at the floor, her eyes filled with water that did look a little sad. 
“Hunter, take 15.” The gruff voice pierced through the moment’s magic, but it didn’t linger. 
“Want to take a walk?” he suggested. She looked a bit surprised, but there was excitement in her eyes. 
“You want to keep talking?” 
He couldn’t hide the giddy grin that took hold of his face. “Something that doesn’t let you go so easily?”
She grabbed his hand, looked up and confirmed: “Friction.”
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unfoldandfall · a year ago
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cosmos/chaos
What if the whole world was your body? 
The freckles on your face are constellations, and the bumps you hate aren’t giant and red, but red giants—mira, omicron ceti. 
Your wild mane of crazy curls is not the straw you think, but the viney leaves of a willow tree: protection and beauty. 
Rippled, stretched hips and legs aren’t signs of expanding, aging, working: they’re river flow. A system, working together, feeding the ocean.
Each unkempt hair, prickly and feral, proves your richness. You are the nexus of growth and bounty. Your very being sustains. Keeps each cell turning. 
There is no proper form, and fat is not a dirty word. You are a safe space. Your padded cells form havens for each essential organ, each twisted vein: the chance to offer new life. 
Though falling in orbit with other celestial bodies: boasting aquamarine outsides and sparkling with stars, you are not overshadowed by the illusion of distant perfection. 
Their Mars is your Earth. If they’re the white-hot lava of the sun, ‘life of the party’ powerful, then you’re the impervious moon: steady and strong in solitude. Surreptitiously scarred and divinely feminine.
There’s nothing—no crooked toes or bumpy nose—that renders worthless this vital vessel you inhabit. That you crafted. In which your mother had a heavy hand and your father is effervescent/evident. 
You are entitled to the space you take up. The universe carved this spot where you’ve settled, mapped this trajectory you’re traversing        for you only.
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unfoldandfall · a year ago
Text
static
Interrupted by motion, no sound. The man leans back breathlessly, stretching generously but not quite enough to tip. There are screens lining the dingey walls, each one a slightly different angle like a dressing room mirror. The walls, the white shirt, his hands: all stained. 
There’s a gross feeling in the air. He nurses a ginger ale, letting it hover just below his hair-covered upper lip. Disgust, but comfort. 
The ease of being sprawled out, even on a dubious leather office chair, is evident. But just as we near the apex of solace--the first sip of coffee, the sun’s fight through summer blinds, the purr of an old engine starting up--there’s a shift. Serene to serendipitous. 
He notices the figures emerging on the screen. A wordless struggle: one for pleasure, one for escape. The two seem to share a dance with unmatching choreography. Conflicting choreography. The scene gives a new meaning to fight or flight. 
He stands, slowly, unsure of exactly what he’s seeing. The image is fuzzy, interrupted by crackling, visual hissing across the screen. Upon becoming clear again, the screen is the confessional. The unsuspecting night-shift security guard knighted the moral judge; the protector. 
L45. Which room is that? Should he go himself? Frozen fingers don’t get to 9-1-1 fast enough: the real knights in shining bastardry. The moment of hesitation is enough to screw everything up.
Static
No. No. She’s gone. She’s lost. Losing. 
The monitor flickers, but fails. 
The girl isn’t there. The dance partner gone. The world zooms out too quickly, losing the guard/hero, no longer knowing the guard/hero. They’re all lost. Losing.
I’m losing. 
Losing/lucid
I’ve never wanted this awareness less. Breathe in 1-2-3, breathe out 1-2-3. Nails gripped into carpet, body stiff but not too much so: Allow him to get it over with. 
But I (she) know(s) better than anyone that allowance is absent in this frozen state. Nails gripping carpet, toes curling through pain, sweat-smell stealing the air: gagging at that. 
Breathe in 1-2-3. Breathe out 1-2-3. I have the room back, just me + him, missing my nonexistent hero and the hope that erupted upon awareness of him, this thing of only my mind. 
Let it slip away. Let it fall through my fingers. Feeling it go.
Static.
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