Crafting, a menu that extends to the farthest craters of the moon. Drawers inside of boxes, containing tiny keys – silver, brass, gold. Locks in high places, just out of reach, tucked behind ears for later thinking. A pot of molten language, sifting, bubbling, evolving. Curses turn to common tongue, tongues that cease to pause and hear. Words tiptoe away down to the shadows.
I dip my hands into the grey. Confront it. Speak my mind. The grey sticks to my fingertips. Oil slick. Washing up liquid is repelled by it. Water too. A glove; second skin. Black and white is not my colour.
The hand on my face presses down, sliding its fingers into my gills. No oxygen, no screaming, I suppose it thinks. My mouth proves otherwise. I have teeth, I have lungs, I have a voice that belts out an alert to all around me. There is a creature here wanting to crush you. It’s got me. Stay back, else it will get you, too.
It looks exactly like victory – if you squint a little. A hungry mouth waiting to swallow the world up whole, too famished to savour the taste. Someone once told me that taking such a meal would never truly sustain a person: half of a half, carrying on in a waking dream fishing for starfish to throw at the sky.
Do they know about the secrets kept sewn into your pockets? You brush shoulders with them everyday, spilling reflections from your shoes. People have always been bad at spotting fake images. You don’t want to close the circle, but the ice is drawing in fast.
The ants crawl up the paper wrapper. Crisp. Slicing away at the butter within. Our eyes travel with them as they take their neat cubes back down the trail, meeting their brothers in traffic. Disconnect. A crash. Cymbals rained down on our heads. An ambulance was called. And police. The first and second violins screeched in erratically, but they didn’t stop. No long notes. Connect. The ants march on. We are the car behind. We are, we are, we are.
Cool eyes watch the forest of your lips. The curve of your mouth reminds me of the hook at the end of a praying mantis’ front legs: serrated, catching on the web that masks the rest of your face. Who are you? I can’t answer. Who are you? I can’t answer.
There is comfort to the closeness. Strong scents jarring the nose but relaxing muscles in a way only home can. The earth is close. The weight above, to the sides and below. Inhale. Exhale. A constant movement against motionless time. Soft grumbling from deeper in, memories of warmth. There is nostalgia here, mixed with the damp soil.
My hands fit right around your waist. I can pull you in tight, or let you go. We are sewn together, attached by a loose red string. You can wind it; so can I. Together, then. Hand over hand, gaze to gaze, we gather each other up into a tiny pin-badge pressed forever to our hearts.
At the very bottom of the box, under all the aluminium ring-pulls, squashed bottle caps, tarnished costume jewellery, bent paperclips, and neat bags of lavender long lost of their scent, is a single book with one word stamped across its cover in gold lettering. The word looks familiar, but you can’t recall what it means. You spell it out: H-O-P-E. The meaning refuses to stir in your mind, so you pick it up, turning it over in your hands and caressing the cover. A button catch clasps the book shut. Even when you press it, it refuses to open. Dismayed, and by now a little bored, you put the book back. Under the lavender bags, under the paperclips, under the jewellery, under the bottle caps and under the ring-pulls. Now the book is completely obscured, you close the lid of the box and turn away, intending to walk off and forget about it. But even though the book is hidden, buried under so much, you cannot let go of it. You know it’s there, and it always will be there, waiting for you to pick it up again.