LGBTQ+ Drama Historical Fiction


Where do you go when you run? Do you sprout wings from your forearms and kiss the sun with their colorful array?

Do you remember that day? The sky was a collage of turbid dishwater pasted in scraps with the occasional streak of still-wet opaque Elmer’s Glue peeking through. Scattered silver glitter zigzagged, static from the TV screen when you couldn’t connect to a channel. It buzzed into focus when you dialed the knob a centimeter clockwise and a helicopter fizzed like the ZotZs Surie mailed you in that year that was a mine hiding under sun-dried grass, amber blades swaying in all their majesty and beckoning you to skip to your explosive end that would have smelled of burnt flesh and almonds, but the momentary escape made reckless resolves an oversight. 

The bubbly sherbet varnished your tongue verdant and suddenly your cheeks appeared as if you’d fastened my mother’s favorite earrings to your face, three transparent glass droplets chained by white gold one over the other. I understood your tears, too deeply to adequately express, but you bolted through that death meadow before I could try, itchy weeds carving your ankles raw. 

My eyes leaked in an identical way when the helicopter footage was broadcasted, color pixels on the screen feigning that it had been a dream, a movie, film rotating on a projector that we could have melted when it hadn’t, it really hadn’t, it was so, so real. 

It was loud and bullets snapped in the background and I beseeched the cacophony to surreally silence; quiet makes the tiny noises louder in the material world. I’d heard enough bombs in false fracas, I didn’t need the real thing howling in my ears, smoky wolves chanting to the moon when they already whispered incessantly to each star. 

I surmise I wasn’t the only one to weep. You wrestled the TV cord from the wall and the door opened and slammed shut. I pressed my palms to my ears. 

Where do you go when you run?

I hide. Unearth pockets where the world collapses in on me, its edges and corners chafing my bones like your jagged bitten fingernails on my back when I ask you to scratch it for me. Cream fabric strips with the oranges you painted from underneath the couch were added to the collage when it became my ceiling. I know you painted the bottom because it’s on the list of “Places Jackie Hides” and oranges remind me of the candies my father kept in a crystal bowl on the front desk at his resale shop. 

But you’re unpredictable. I can’t decorate a brick wall or furniture for you because you’re a record and when you’re not spinning you’re a circle of silent vinyl so effortlessly scratched or splintered. You never linger in one place, and your fondest childhood memory was when you chose lush ferns and watercolors you dampened with a paintbrush dipped in the torrent ravine over the honk of the mustard bus that shuttled you to your daily misery. For a whole day, you were the girl who mastered invisibility, though it was never such a feat because you couldn’t be seen even when you painted your body a rainbow, couldn’t be heard even when you screamed. 

So I don’t know where you went. All I know is that you returned two hours later and laid next to me in front of the couch. You laid there for five minutes or so, rolling around on the long-haired grey rug that you love because it’s fluffy. You reminded me of a bird cooling itself in summer scarlet heat by taking a dirt bath, your buns tangling into indistinct masses the way brilliant feathers dull into dust. You didn’t say anything, just made a little squeak and clicked your tongue in your cheek alternately. I wonder if you’re a hummingbird, tropic feathers hidden beneath your psychedelic t-shirts, beating your wings eighty beats a second.

When I army-crawled out, you shot up and dragged me to the train tracks just a block away from our apartment. The streets were busy, headlights bleeding cars into blurs like peering through a window frosted with raindrops transforming it to an oil painting of Paris in a rainstorm by Gustave Caillebotte, colors surging into the streets and dizzyingly draining into the gutters. We sewed across the street, a needle and thread bridging two quilt blocks together, two continents colliding, tectonic plates quaking.

We made it to the overpass, peeling mint paint above us sprinkled into the dishwater, and we stood there in anticipation, children when the birds have flown in Vs southward, our noses pressed against a window, scanning our surroundings for glittering frost floating silently to the warm ground where it would promptly melt. It was my first snowfall and I was mirroring your excitement. You grinned so widely I could see all your crooked teeth, overlapping on the right and a gap in the front. 

A train passed overhead and you covered my ears, earmuffs to the first blow of the blizzard because you know the noise hurts my ears. But you love it. I struggle to apprehend why because loud cracks my ears off my head in a bloody mangled mess but you love complicated and irradiant sounds. 

Then you said something, and I realized you were whooping, a sizzling firecracker spitting stars, warm yellow light pressed against bodies in darkness like headlights of a car, shrieks of delight shrill long after the baton coils into ash. You thrill in the rush, the adrenaline, the bombardment of noise, your mouth stretched open and your eyes squinted. You bounced with joy as you nodded to me to participate, so as the freight train passed, I roared. I wanted to scream out my question and wait for the echo, the answer, but instead I howled something nonsensical from the bellows of my heart. Where do you go when you run?

I briefly grasped why you love drowning in sound waves, inundating yourself with music cranked to the top volume, and never breathing. You have gills. You can’t vocalize on the surface, not in an authentic way. Only when you’re sinking in the salty current can you shriek your truth. You can’t live muted.

I envision us engulfed by that ash scrapbook often, the rumble of the train ricocheting, the wind hurling your knotted hair like a windmill, frigid memories thawing into new tales. Was it as liberating as the switchblades of the sun in Vietnam’s Wonderland petting your unshaved legs, cognizant that one misstep would radiate the rays too close?

Is that where your mind goes when you run?

I lament that I did not rashly race over the minefield with you, both of us Icarus, flying too close to the sun, the warmth on our backs worth the melting wax and the plummet.

- Jackie, 1972

July 09, 2021 17:41

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Ella Dodge
18:33 Jul 13, 2021

I enjoyed reading this story very much! It was very descriptive and I loved the raw emotions portrayed through the metaphors.


18:34 Jul 13, 2021

Thank you so much!


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