word by Keah Hansen
colour by Tomasz Kartasinksi
16 minutes left of class. The seconds drift onto the floor, clustering like fallen leaves or crumpled love notes around her converse shoes. Laughter seeps sideways from her mouth – I inhale her sounds. Filling the blank spaces on the corners of my notebook with cryptic doodles. Inside jokes nestled on the pages, shading in the loopy curves with tenderness. She slips me a mint, like any other day, under the roaming eyes of the teacher and spinning discussion, which floats to the florescent lights in a hazy, vapid way. I follow the din upwards, over her curly hair and alight on the fire alarm, with vague notions of apprehension and pensive yearning.
Today, the mint is imbued with significations, defining our comfy closeness on her worn yellow couch and clandestine ice cream escapades (alternating spoons of chocolate ripple and gossip) with flaming gravity. We snicker together over something trivial, then with giddiness I alone levitate equidistant to her forehead. The bell sounds and the class streams out. We tumble to the water fountain together and pause. She splashes over me with her usual locutions while I take a long sip of water.
The water is icy and clarifies my thoughts. 6 months of uncertainty. 6 weeks of contemplation. I’m bobbing here, staring at the grandeur of the stars from this makeshift raft. Her crocked elbow is my mooring. The water ebbs unceasingly. I feel seasick (or is it butterflies?). She’s never had a boyfriend. We’ve held hands in the hallways. Oh to hell with it, I dive in.
My statement, a small confession of love, comes to her in small timid waves. We are the last ones in the building. I’m fixated on those worn converses again; her feet dance nervously while I’m a shipwrecked mess, letting the waves pass through my lips. The rocks hold me steadfast on the hopes for our relationship; they are sharp and make my voice waver more than I’d like.
Her features are catatonic. She contorts her face into a sympathetic smile. I surface into the glaring sunlight. Her face is burnt; she doesn’t understand my watery, viscous existence. These mermaid musings mean nothing to her. My ears are clogged. I feel the palpable pressure of her discomfort; my skin is cracking as impressions of my declaration sink into her body.
Another bell sounds. I slink back into the water, my element. Half coherent and murky, I don’t need to define myself or reveal my pinings to anyone. I’ll cry tonight, alone, but gather my tears as jewels. Later, I’ll string them together and wear them on my neck, something beautiful and brave.
For now, I drift away. A current pulls her brisk minty existence away from my waterlogged love.
From the author: “I was inspired by this artwork to write a story about an experience of revealing your romantic affection to a friend of the same gender. The blue material at the bottom of the piece expressed to me both bed sheets and water. I interpreted the water as a symbol of renewal and rebirth, which I related to coming out with your sexual orientation.
The positioning of the legs also gave me the impression of figuratively “diving in” to a relationship or a new experience. The opaqueness of the blue inspired me to think of the colour as a form of protection, which I developed later in the story. Furthermore, the vertical tiered nature of the piece affected the progression of my story, while the Facebook friendship sign symbolized the ambiguities of relationships, especially during adolescence as we have a tendency to question our sexuality.”