Hades finds us at brunch. I’m sipping on a watery cocktail because my fingers need something to do. I watch your lips move. Syllables don’t swirl in a dance. They crash, wretched, interlinked chains stuttering like the worn-out motors of old cars. They pull me back; a thousand moons prior, one long blink, just past noon.

I stretched into the sand watching slices of ocean strike and retreat. A shadow cut out the sun. His grin was overbearing beauty, melancholy. His teeth were yellow. His breath revealed his indulgences. He offered me a red glass, nearly full, swirling. Warm touch.

The temperature of that graze was statistically meaningless. Scorching starlight baked the skin like dough. Still, the human heart and the laws of math are frozen in stalemate. We spent our nights along the sidewalks of waves, dually quaking, full of unresolved unknowns. Inward, I skittered over the rounded defects of steel walls, puncturing holes. My revelations were speckled with question marks. How to love a dead mother who gave you the world. How to plant new seed on scorched earth. How to laugh from the belly. His life reel ran the other way. Forlorn beginnings, Saint Joseph’s, Our Lady of Salvation, names for Heaven, scorched by Hell. Family was assembled, not granted, and tears were wasted. He was an unmoored boat, prone to motion until the very last tide splintered wood and bark.

Alchemy’s cruel trick: two months of escape, eternal longing. I read his soul like a map, memorized the streets and intersections. Revealed my jagged potholes, the construction zones, hard hat be damned. Death’s silence, snow-swept mountains, sugarcane plantations with spindly needles of bark. Midnights guided us to lamp-lit beds, curtains half-drawn, crescent moonlight slivers on tangled chests. Consumed. Nurtured. Sunflower wafting in sea-salt breezes, root steeped in desert rock.

At the unimaginable end, we clung to separation’s storm with a raft of promises. Back in reality’s bustle, color drained. I shrieked into the void. Silence met my screams. Wailing turned to whispers. I traced ghosts on flesh spots, kissed by her, touched by him. In quiet cafes, thought shivered on the edge of a mushroom cloud.

I fled. Anxious fears flatlined in the plane’s cabin, as if the mere planning, and doing, and hoping, were the resolution itself.

A yellow cab swallowed me. A bulbous charm dangled from its front mirror, green and black. Neurons fired, and in their unwanted swirl, Ma’s liver-spotted skin crackled. Tight hugs, walls painted over with sorrowful crucifixes, cubes of cayenne pepper, creased newspapers from Pa’s country, framed photos with inked-out faces. Dreamcatcher trinkets on the knobs of paint-peeled doors, jingling over welcome mats, warding off life’s chaos. Had they ever worked? She lived with the worms now, the beady-eyed beetles, the wingless and shriveling springtails. She offered them refuge in the nostrils of a disintegrating skull.

A yellow cab spat me out into clouds of steam against misty glass. I stood soaking for a moment. For a thousand. I doused myself in fragrances and wandered like a ghost.


He was a mirage, pushed back the more you pushed forward. He was nowhere. He was gone.

On the return, a long and smoldering fever. I lay wrapped in sheets. Watched shadows lengthen and contract, laughed at the shapes of their edges, hexagons, hunchbacked demons, yellow teeth. Snow washed over petals, green lost in the white. Gold bloomed. Streets of dry and crackly carpets. Crunched by my own feet, relearning the charts of these new-old boulevards.

Time heals, they say. As if the cure is better.

Your mouth opens wide when you smile. White light emerges, blinding. A honeypot grin overpolished by bathroom mirrors. I drain my glass, and before we part ways, I take one final look at you. A whispering wind floats past us, listening too. Perhaps a silent half-plea will suffice. Shift the molecules. Align the stars. Bloat my lungs until they are taut like balloons, until every part of me hurts again.