She’s at the stone table the first time, filling nine empty seats with purple
liner and the air that she wouldn’t mind being somewhere else.
She squeezes my hand so it hurts and she repeats back my name,
swearing death to my original tergiversation
She places a morsel of her soul in between my teeth — Nice to meet you too.
She says, and what about you? Do you ever feel like a fraud?
Walking around while you’re actually a skipper?
I say, but what does it mean to actually be a skipper?
If a skipper is walking, then skippers walk and are still skippers.
I never downed espresso shots before today
To clear my head and see you better, she says, and
she says, and what about you? Do you wonder if people can understand other
I say, words can only get us so far.
She says, I wish telepathy were real
I say, but what makes us ourselves is
that we aren’t a blob of shared consciousness
She says, I would rather be that than alone.
The nine chairs are still empty the next day.
She hands me a decomposed notebook and a wooden pencil
We’ll write down exactly what we think.
She says, have you ever felt like jumping off from a high place just because you could and not because you wanted to?
I don’t tell her most people have heard l’appel du vide, the call of the void, according to a study
Instead I glare into her purple pupils, rip off a portion of pages and crumple and press so the
parchment piques my palm
She grips my wrist
Holy s—, we are the same.
There’s not much to my next week except a return to the table,
during which her nose starts bleeding.
I press a wet cloth to her forehead so cold water drips down her skin
like sweat and mixes with red
I say, I used to get nosebleeds every five minutes
My best friend in second grade would get excited and say
we’d both get to go home if I got even a drop of my blood on her.
She leans in, she says, as a kid I tried to do a blood pact with my friend
by pressing our scraped knees together.
That night I dream that we grip each other’s
throats till we both suffocate and die and
our hands are under the other person’s skin
She’s at the stone table again, so I’m there.
There are other people today, one two three,
packed around her
She says to these people, and what about you? Don’t you think we’d be freer if we swapped souls with everyone we knew for a while?
I heard: Oh my god, I’ve felt that way I’ve felt that way I’ve felt that way,
Souls are breadcrumbs for ducks. At that moment I wanted all three of them to follow the call, hit the ground hard and leave us alone.
Contact Miranda Jiang at [email protected].