That girl, I said you here, you look like my cousin. I said this as I drew her down on a piece of scrap she ripped out of a drawing book. She had a mole slanted down her nose and her upper lip was full, and when she smiled it didn’t curl but there you could see the incomplete set of teeth underneath. Some flipped and some lost, and beneath a full under lip the ends reaching all the way to her dimples. She barely had dimples anyway. The sides of the cheeks were smeared red by dryness, and above the eyes shimmered a bit like dark peas. Her eyelashes were not long but the brows tilted an arc softly not blackly a light express colour. You could just look at her and wonder how come her hair is held in a ponytail and a yellow hoop and the hair still flies around the forehead blocking the eyes and an arc of a brow. Then there were her ears, sticking out like I propped them this way. I just lined these onto the paper, and she smiled, and the dry smeared cheeks bobbed but the chin was still skinny and round, and then she remembered her teeth and stopped. When she stopped her shoulders looked small, and her neck looked too thin for her feet. When I went away she cried so I hugged her. And I and her shoulders were too small I had to fold my arms two folds around to get back to myself, and it got all twisted so they just lifted me up away with my arms left tangled. Then I went away to eat. When I finished eating she was there again with the boy with a bicycle who never listened who caught the first pair of red eyes today. That boy had long hair sticking like her ears like his ears too and his eyes were big glittery, with long eyelashes. He had a thin chin and his lips were kind of thin too growing inward I think so he looked like a monkey. The other kids were there. One other was a handsome one I liked, with a tuft of ragged hair draped halfway over his forehead and some freckles at the nose. With a bicycle, too. Now it got me all confused, and they said alright we take you way to fish crayfish.
We went to the pond. They dove into the grass and came back with palms clamped. The frogs tried to scare me and they tried to scare me, and they hit the frogs at the road and wrapped strings around their dead waists. Then wrapped strings around sticks, and put sticks down the pond. Then their palms were clamped again and the crayfish tried to scare me. So I took the train and left. When I left they came to see me but I was thinking already of the far off. I missed them before I left them, but when I left them I forgot about them. I thought of the frogs and mud and water mixed with rain with cow excrement in the middle of little occasional motors tanned eyes at the steps, me walking them swearing step by steps down and down and up. To where no flags flew and construction never ended. I yelled at the top of my voice but they didn’t hear. So I got sick and took the train home.
I tried sleeping but they kept dancing at my eyelids. My eyelashes drooped. I could see them at the tips bicycling on top of mud frogs jumping into grassy steps flowers. The flowers were yellow or white, thank god, and the music kept cutting at the wifi there is no where the ponds flashed there were crayfish waiting to be frogged did you see did you see. I promised myself to write but the ponds were too loud, they kept crushing in. I said, leave me here with the peace where there is no peace there is only noise but company. I dreaded loneliness and craved to be alone, they said, here, in our palms there are did it hurt the coming no it was the giving. If you could fight for a pen fight for a girl too, fight for her, she looked like he was on his face he was all over his hands groping fisted for a pen he didn’t even like but oh he caught the first pair of red eyes my cousin. The other girl I could never remember her name, something like a mosquito, with her hair flying black shooting like the radiance of sun. Her eyes a tilted seam smiling, like her lips curving up and down like slopes we encountered on the gradients of grass where frogs lurked for leaping, complete under teeth unpolished like her nails. Her cheeks and chin sharply round dark dry with rain not redness like a raisin. When she smiled the cheeks didn’t bob they lifted with chin left sticking round and sharp, just like hers. Only her ears didn’t stick and the hoop was too less of a hoop for a hoop. And she didn’t get slapped for trying to stop him when he tried to beat up that boy with a straight nose and slant eyes who tried to hit tease he didn’t stop, he went raging, he swept down the chairs and the boy who looked like a kind bear, and he hit not for teasing. And his nose watered he caught the red eyes water or rain fringing the tips of brows with arms propped tangled, I said okay okay? he said no. No no no no no lips clamped fists tight out he apologized no no no no he caught the first pair of no no he I refuse. He refused. The ring belled they flooded. The next day he was laughing off his chair and lost his heart of a pen.
The mirror reflects water molecules of air strangles me, I reach up and my fingertips don’t brush the glass, not penetrating the coldness seeps I can smell through me fingertips the laughter, noise, the never complete black never alone but always lonely, the loud light and sleep can’t not allowed to sink. And time becomes what slips through the gaps between two sides of the mirror that face to face me. I am reminded of when I had no image of myself was more beautiful than I have ever been in not their eyes but my eyes, caught only damn the cameras. I did this for me, not you, you needn’t cry, but girl, damn you you look like my sister. Now get on your bicycle I’m returning to where I came from where the steel sprouts tall towers me buried not like me here towering above you looking down hugging you I don’t look there the tops too high to catch. The steel buries even the sun so it rises up late and eats at it early, so there is no lasting light as there is no complete dark.
Her eyelashes grew exponentially. She only wished to be cured. The doctors said the disease was exceptional, never seen before. She submitted to tears, which only nourished her lashes and accelerated their growth. Tweezing was a temporary solution. Cutting provided peace no longer, a matter of hours elapsed before the lashes attained their previous length. In time they acquired the density of forests and prickliness of mercury. She took to shaving. Every morning the razor skimmed the edges of her lids like a mower of rebellious weeds, and by noon the lashes would have sprouted to two black-striped veils over her eyes, arced in the shape of a parabola.
People whispered comforts to her lips and stamped kisses on her ears. The government sent its condolences. She had a collection of tweezers at the sill of her ward, all gifts from the less unfortunate. They visited her frequently and brought news to and fro. She quitted her job as a cosmetologist in the beauty salon. She was compelled to do so when her vision became so obstructed she could not beautify her customers’ eyelashes without peeling off half the lids. Now she had grown accustomed to looking from underneath her lashes.
In order for her to see they dabbed lip glosses on her eyelashes to keep them from drooping. It was an ingenious idea. She regained her sights for the time being.
The medical fees were astronomical, though, and the lip glosses cost a fortune. She borrowed money from Mothers and Fathers, neighbors and colleagues. Then at last they decided to let the eyelashes grow. They resolved to see their limits. What they did not know was the eyelashes had no limits. Seven in the morning they stopped shaving. Ten past seven, the lashes had sprung from the corners of her eyes like moist forest fungi. Fourteen past seven, they wormed up her lids and drilled into her brows. Sixteen past seven, they reached down to enclose her eyes. Seventeen past, they coiled around her ears. Then in forty five seconds, they climbed into her eardrums. At exactly seven eighteen, she cried out she couldn’t hear anything. That was how the experiment ended and she went deaf.
On the third year of the disease they started applying penicillin. The penicillin corroded her eyelashes and they finally fell off. But the penicillin had side effects. Her lips started drooping exponentially.
My brother is cottonwood. He stands on his favorite toe, eyes ground-touching yearning the sky. My brother is a boy. I say, “give it up, you don’t deserve it.” “Go away, woman.” he says. The day I cropped my hair short he tried to take it from me. That’s how he knew. Everyday I cut off a longer inch until there is no longer. Mother and Father have no idea. My body is fluid, my mind an octopus soaked in irreversible paroxysms of hope. One day. I speak with my tongue as her eyes suck me in, her eyes the eyes of my Mother but elaborate as the eyes of a liar. She doesn’t know yet what’s underneath. One day. I heard my brother scream one day. He is not yet ten but he sees it better than anyone. “Stop it.” he says. I wish. It is a birthmark a curse from the next life a silent burn below your skin. You cannot stop because it is the way it is. I cropped my hair short. Her smile is full of teeth and a certain brand of understanding. “You don’t understand.” Her heart is your heart is the iron lining of my dreams. Brows thick and one like raven’s wings. I give up.
Time and again you flashed a blue smile. You were eaten by hunger. The coffee store around the corner filled you with apologies. You sat there with your hands cupping milk, a checkered scarf twisted around your summer neck.
It was an island of indecency. Department Head of Justice, a short elderly with receding ears, stopped by to order chocolate flavored oranges. He had wood-rimmed glasses and cherry lips that talked only of chipmunks and housing prices. He dissuaded you from paying.
The grocery girl next door passed by only once in two weeks. She wore dangling earrings and purple eyelashes. Her teeth smelled of enamel. Flaxen hair shaded pink fluttered to the wind, printing sunlight into your eyes. They reflected a bouquet into little Jamie’s translucent crystalloid, as she peered nervously through the semi-opaque backseat car window, her hands pressed onto the sides of a yellow schoolbag.
Then from across the street came the businessmen in polished shoes and moustache. Dark hair parted in the middle and combed back to shield their baldness, they came in swarms, never venturing an investigative look at you behind the coffee store window. Cologne forestalled the stench of leather briefcases. When car beeps ceased and the street turned clean, a late engineer trotted by with blueprints flying.
Two university students strode hand in hand, eyes adrift and unstopping by the traffic lights. The boy tossed a slack of brown hair back, dazzling you with closely-set teeth. Jamie capered with light feet and quivering eyelashes, yellow handbag dangling at her shoulder. The grocery lady hugged her with nails painted blue, pink hair faded into a loosely fastened knot.
Night descended and neon lights flashed green. The short-sighted elderly with cane in hand glanced at the coffee store without heeding you. Footsteps thundered, the pop star in sunglasses checked the window for reflection. Shiny coverall and explosive hair cleared the dull of your eyeballs, the guards clustered in black and ties. Midnight, traffic lights illuminated darkly veiled troopers carrying coffins for burial. Shadows crept to shield your eyes against the iron rimmed glasses shimmering blackness.
An old man in faded leather shoes and whiskers crouched at the steps. The lady with yellow bowler hat looked into the clouds, unmoving by broken traffic lights. From the grocery store came a capering boy, swift legs wrapped up in striped bib pants. He carried a basket of air, holding sunlight piercing into your eyes. You flashed a toothless grin, time and again.