Gloss cracks on a mustard porcelain teapot. Cocoa creme wood. Time is slow, like counting quarters on a rainy day in New Jersey. It looks like I still remember the words to the poem I wrote just days before my apartment ignited into flames. Just days before I was rendered possessionless except the sweat on my lower back, my gym clothes, and the groceries cradled in the plastic bags my hands carried. I stood outside my blackened apartment, frozen next to the blonde police officer, frozen like the slowly thawing frozen vegetables I had just bought. I wrote this days before a worldwide pandemic hit, shuttering the stores and restaurants, shuttering everything, like God turned out the lights at our party. Despite destruction and separation, my memory distilled the same purity onto paper. Whatever forgotten, made up even better. What a quiet poem. Perhaps it was an omen, describing the quiet now. A message from the future: quarantine.
Suicide of a Lover
I work from night until day. I listened to the howling wind outside. I know I would not last in the wind. How I am lasting now is not comfortable either. Underneath the surface of this brown skin golden wasps walk up and down my arms and legs. Their hive is in my heart, and I know this because the pain accumulates there the most. It feels like a black hole is pulling all my energy towards my spine. Perhaps their venom accumulates in the spongy parts of my vertebrae, like mercury accumulates in fish. The gravitational pull is so heavy that I can barely get an inhale and an exhale out from the center.
When my mind starts crawling so do the wasps. They tingle up and down my body as emotions cast their shadow over my eyes. The color I see most often is lonely. The wasps love lonely. Lonely makes them swarm and fester in my wrists, shoulders, and face. They swim in my sinuses and dribble a clear salty liquid as they do so. The reservoirs in my face have a limited capacity, resulting in this substance being omitted out the optical orifices as a way to cope with the overflow.
Tonight is a warm night. The same bedroom I’ve managed to escape, with nothing but words and pleading and a few dollars in my pocket, I’ve somehow found myself confined to again. My back hurts. My legs hurt. The work I do is giving out love. Whatever part of my body is not occupied by wasps I give out to the void and hope someone will pick it up.My voice is largely untouched by the wasps, unless they dangle and play with my vocal cords. Then my voice gets choked up and hoarse. And sometimes it is hard to speak. My auditory orifices, although small, always stay open and listening. The wasps have not closed up this area yet. Tonight, their buzzing might just get too loud. My hands, though creaky, continue to fashion new items for other people to consume. These items are often made out of love.
All night tonight I have been exhausted. I have been spitting words of love into envelopes and sending them via electronic carrier pigeon. I have been offering my auditory orifices as vessels for those in need, and sending those vessels in packages as well. To soothe those with swollen and dripping optical orifices like mine, my hands fashion bright presents to give to those who are looking for a distraction. The one I’m working on right now is a story. I love to tell stories. Ever since I was young, the magic of words and language have always been my trade.
When I was a little girl I visited India. The memory is incredibly fuzzy, but one night I climbed atop my grandmother’s dining room table and gathered my audience. Any and all who would listen witnessed me telling the story of how to make chicken curry.
“First, you chase the chicken,” I’d say, stomping my feet with a real look of serious competition on my face. My grandmother, the house-maid, the cook, aunts, and uncles took mental notes.
“What comes next?” an aunty would ask. Delighted, I answered:
“Then you catch the chicken, and break its neck!” I said, capturing an imaginary chicken with my hands, and imitating killing it. The whole house roared with laughter. Open smiles, black hair brown faces enjoying the ruckus and energy I shook up as I shared my wisdom and knowledge.
“Then, you cook the chicken! Bang, bang, bang, you add the spices. And you have to tell the chicken: you’re going to become a curry! And you curry it like this: chopchopchopchopchopchopchop!” The finale of my grand story of how to make chicken curry consisted of a grandiose interpretive dance of what “curry” looked like. In my head, all I could imagine was noise. Hissing, sputtering, islands of oil dotting a deep sunset orange liquid. Leaves, seeds, chicken parts floated through. I illustrated this the best I could with my body and it won me the family Oscar award.
“She’s going to grow up to be an actress! A speaker! What a sweet voice!” My aunts and uncles would say.
That world seems far away. The rules of that world seem so foreign and different. My currency was smiles, words were delightful presents, countries were different planets, how fast a minute passed was determined by how exciting life was going at the time. Monochromatic yellow.
This world is a lot sharper. I won’t say that it is worse or less fun. That isn’t true. It is just so much more nuanced. So much more complicated. This one is not monochromatic at all. It bleeds deep colors and the only problem is that the colors run out sometimes.
Sometimes the colors run out and it looks scary and dead. Like the way blood dries on a dead squirrel ran over by a car. Or, if you live in New York, a dead rat. Sometimes the colors run out and all you can do is beg for them to come back. Sometimes the colors run out and you don’t know how you can cope not knowing if they will come back. This is a secret but it is the truth nevertheless. When the crimson queen visits monthly I can’t help but photograph her paintings between my legs. I keep these pictures to myself. In my mind I see something breath-takingly beautiful. Only my body could make red show up like that.
Tonight, the colors have long since bled and dried. I looked out the window to see nothing but black-blue. The last package I sent was 16 minutes ago. The last envelope departed out my window about 8. The wasps continue to crawl even though there is nothing left to say or make or send. I can hear their incessant buzzing get louder and louder. I frantically look for a way to dull the ache. I grab my phone, stare blankly, and feel that feeling when there is no one to reach out to who I know will receive my call. I don’t want to talk to an acquaintance. I want to talk to family. I want a family. Yet, there are few I consider my family. The wasps rattle around in my head, starting to sever small sinews and sting the insides of my body. A quick thought about whether I should stay to talk to the crimson queen next month. A quick stab in my heart feeling as if nobody cares about me, and then feeling bad for experiencing that feeling because intellectually I know that isn’t true.
I looked out the window one last time. I looked at the vast, open sky. I pleaded with the moon to help. I just don’t want to be alone anymore. Forgive me if I want to join you early. I reached for the cup on my nightstand. Inside of it contained a midnight colored elixir of wasp poison, generic insect killer, and blueberry juice. I blinked twice, and then downed the whole cup. I grabbed a blanket and covered my whole body, a final gesture of self love, and fell asleep underneath the open window. I just want to be loved, unconditionally, truthfully, and deeply. Now, I will not have to wonder. Finally I can set these golden wasps free, let them fly into the night sky and leave my tired brown body alone.