By Amanda Gain
We sit side by side on the unused bed in my room, a week after we first met. Already, all I want is to ask him questions, always. I noticed that when he swims, he wears his red and black converse sneakers. Yesterday, the grey sky settled on the bottom of his shoes as he dove with his legs sticking straight up into the air. Now, I can ask him why. When I ask, he lifts his foot and points at a little notch of raised skin. Once, some creature stung him at the bottom of the ocean, so now the darkness of the water scares him. In the middle of an Alaskan bay, he guarded his feet from sea urchins.
I trace the circle of a scar that sits on the skin between his forefinger and his thumb. And this one? “That one,” he says. He was driving with a friend, driving nowhere in particular. She mentioned that she always dreamed of branding someone with those cigarette lighters that come in cars. He offered up his hand as a sacrifice. She left her mark; it hurt like hell. I can understand why he let her do it; that’s one of the things we have in common. In some ways, this annoys him—that I can relate, that I didn’t gasp in horror. “You remind me of an Alder tree,” he blurts. “You grow anywhere, even where there’s no soil for roots to take hold.”
I’m still holding his hand, looking at his bowed head, at his tousled brown hair, and smelling his smell, a mixture of cinnamon and sweat. Something tells me to flip over his hand, so I listen to this ancient call and I discover a mountain range raised up along his wrist. I try to touch it, but our atoms repel one another. When? I ask. “I don’t remember,” he says. How could he forget that kind of blood? But then again, if I look into his eyes on a night like this, maybe I could believe him. In the morning, I thought, Damn, those eyes are beautiful. But at night, I remember where that gold comes from, that his eyes are the color of fireball whiskey.
He pulls his hands from my grasp and cups my face. “I don’t like to hold hands anymore,” he whispers. I feel cold. I picture myself as a little girl building a snowman with my mom. How did I end up here, older now, sitting next to him? He was once a child too. But this moment feels inevitable, planned. And in this moment, I’m content to be another scar. His lips hug mine. His lips teach my lips that kisses and words are interchangeable, that some are less true than others.
Amanda Gain graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a B.A. in English. Upon graduation, she took off to Alaska to work as a tour guide on a crabbing boat. Since then, she’s been pursuing her two greatest passions: traveling and writing.