This is the first mass exodus of sickness, upheaval of the human spirit, but you say i am making it far too big. That you had wanted to go home for some time now, that you were one day clean from weed and you were laughing in a bathtub in Lansing while your roommate pissed in a cup. A perpetual state of ‘i don’t care but oh god i do’. i made you meet my parents but i couldn’t make you give me a home. Instead, i come down south for a day and take videos of you singing Christina Aguilera while we motor down the 131. I think Grand Rapids is a hazardous city and you say that it’s not. For seconds at a time i think we could be in love but you say that we’re not. We are nothing. We are dirt or dust or something in transit, careening towards the rest of our lives. Which is fitting because the center of Grand Rapids reminds me of a Hot Wheels track and i wonder if you and i and the Camry will survive.
And darling i’m lost/ i heard you whispering/ That night in fountain square/ The trashed filled streets made me wish we were heading home
I wanted you to live in an a-frame cabin out in the middle of bare-bones nowhere. Somewhere cold, somewhere we could sit out on the stoop and drink hard cider and remember when we had woes. Some place where there were no high school kids and we could be without a breed. Your town wasn’t cookie cutter but it wasn’t as feral as i wanted it to be. i think i wanted to see something bleed so that i could feel like the world was truly so unsafe i had to leave it. I begged you to take me into the guns and ammo store so that i could see doomsday preppers buying enough bullets to make it through the apocalypse. We could barely find a parking space, we walked up to the store in the pouring rain. I covered my hair with a vintage silk scarf i have since both lost and outgrown. There are pink camouflage guns for girls like me, girls that want to feel like they could kill. i have been looking up the Yelp reviews for On Target Guns & Gunsmithing and they have three stars. Michael D. from Kalamazoo says that no one was wearing a mask, he felt unsafe, and so he left. i imagine yours would say something along the lines of ‘i took my black friend here, all the white men with guns wouldn’t stop staring at her, i felt unsafe, and so i left’. Mine would say that i was impressed with their selection of Trump 2020 bumper stickers, and that i wanted the pretty pink rifle for my birthday. You didn’t take me inside much after that. You left me in the front seat while you went to get me sugar from the Stop n’ Shop. When you come back out i am gone and you think someone has stolen me, but i am just asleep in the backseat. You don’t seem relieved to know i am there, just happy that you don’t have to post pictures of me around town.
Don’t look at me that way
When i get tired i start to multiply. I am exhausted every second i am around you, and so i start to peel off skins of myself. Or maybe i start to dissolve. On the drive back to your house you tell me about a girl you’d been dating before. You point out the tree her brother curled his car around, and tell me that you stayed with her because of that. For a brief moment i wonder why you are staying with me, but then i remember that we are not in love and that it just seems that way in the dull haze of all my memories of your eyes on mine. Later that night your father takes a photograph of me, sitting on the kitchen floor with your dog. He sends it to my mother who later says to me ‘i thought you didn’t like dogs.’ I don’t, but i did in the limbo. We make box cake that night too, or more, i make it and tell you that you cannot lick the spoon because you did not help. But not so loudly that anyone might hear. Your mother thinks that i’m intelligent, your father thinks that i am exotic, and you think i am overbearing. And i am all of those things, but none of them in the limbo. I was not any version of myself worth knowing. i was not a good writer or a good singer or even a good mosquito net.
if my woman was a fire/ She’d burn out before i wake/ And be replaced by pints of whiskey/ Cigarettes, and outer space
I make you drive me up and down the backwoods in your father’s red stick shift pick-up. You show me your old school, where the poor kids lived, where you played when you were younger, crappy stores on the one road through town, the police station where your dad worked. I point out the cemetery. Everything is abandoned. You let me out of the car when we get to the fish hatchery behind your house because the day is cold and grey and no one else is there. We take pictures of our whole faces and don’t realize how soon we will be just eyes. i am wearing your leather jacket with the ‘don’t tread on me’ button on it. We look for the sturgeon in the pond, hoping to catch a glimpse of something mythical. i tell you that i would eat the rainbow trout raw and wriggling and you make a face at me. You do not like when i am savage. When you talk about shooting the ducks down on the lake i look up at you in awe and imagine fucking a man with a gun and duck blood on his hands. When you are savage is when i most feel like we will survive another winter.
Then somebody moves/ And everything you thought you had has gone to shit/ Well, we’ve got a lot/ Don’t ever forget that
We spend most of the night trying to record a cover of Cut Your Bangs by Girlpool in the basement. it is a blur. Every time i look back on it i feel as though i misplaced something i never found again. That when you moved out of that house a year later you moved a box and found the charred remains of my ring finger fried by the heater. Or the fat of my cheek under a shag carpet. Somewhere around midnight i started to fall asleep on the concrete floor. You woke me up to sing ‘now your mouth is foaming like a rapid dog’s’ over and over again and i think i sound fucking incredible. Each time i’d be covered by another rough afgan. Maybe i shivered in my sleep, maybe you were trying to bury me. The track sounded like shit. The video is cute though. There’s sped up shots of us walking through the kindling trees of the nature reserve, me, at the microphone, looking like something of a ghost, you, making that face you do when you are singing to a falsetto. Like you are about to sneeze. I wear my too-big Calvin Klein vintage coat and a dashiki that i later gifted to you. Not captured is you digging a mosquito out of my right eye while i cried. At the end of the track i giggle and smile, as though it is not 2am.
There was love inside the basement/ Where that woman used to lie/ in a sleeping bag we shared upon/ The floor almost every night
I dwell in our cotton-soft memories to mask the fact that death conquers all. That Nashville is not our promised land but where you will go when only i am silt in the sand. You don’t like taking me places where i disappear when the sun goes down. I curl myself tight around you, burning out your father’s tires. in you, pushing the prongs of your fork through spiced baby corn at the dinner table in your old house. I am not savage, or wounded, i am afraid. We drive north down the 131 with you father in the backseat of the Camry, pretending not to hear us argue over what music to play. i think that i said you don’t really like anything about me. Maybe, i don’t know. i left three days later, drove back to Traverse City at dawn and watched the sunrise over a neighbourhood that wasn’t mine. i called and you didn’t pick up, i called in Chicago, then Miami, then home. I cried to the woman who looked through my VISA at TSA. She said i didn’t look like myself anymore.
And everything that i had loved has turned to stone/ So pack your bags and come back home
Sabine is an incoming freshman at Bennington College in Vermont and a recent grad of Interlochen Arts Academy. She has been writing for several years and yet struggles to write simple bios. Her work mostly focuses on sex, depression and the black experience (because isn’t that what life is about).