Un Enfant des Fleurs
He is a flower boy, if there ever was one. They drip from his skin, limpid and drooping. As if he saps the very life out of them with his smile. It does not look like he can hold an inch of malice in his bones; his eyes shine wild, his lips beguiling, his breaths half-spent. And yet. The flowers drip from him, wrap their roots up his arms and around his toes, rooting into his skull. He tilts his head to the back, parting his lips as his fingers move up to graze his cheek. Daisies curl from behind his ears. They are shy. The roses around his neck aren’t; they kiss the skin like it is their sun and strength.
If he looks distracted some of the time and half-mad the rest, there is the reason.
His hair is dark like the earth. It falls in front of his face, a tangle of ivy and snap dragon. His eyes are earth-brown too, though in those there are flecks of ore in them. One almost expects little mushrooms to pepper his tongue. “That’s absurd,” he says with a laugh, “They can’t grow there.” Ignore the way he speaks around his tongue. If this flower boy wants some secrets, so be it.
Ignore the sores on his skin as well, they mar his beauty. They hide in the crook of his elbow, the bridge of his nose, the line of his calf. They are placed among freckles and smudges of dirt. His smile tightens when a root brushes against one. A pea plant has wound its way around his wrist, settling over one of those little sores, now continually festering. He says, “It’s nothing.” His hand gestures off into the depths of the green house, scattering seeds with it. They hit the floor; pip, pip, pip. The sound seems to catch in his ears. He laughs. The rustle of plants is the undercurrent.
If he shrieks, “Cut me out, please, oh god, cut me out,” in a moment of frightening insanity—his pupils blown out, and hands scrabbling at the sides of his chair, with head thrown back and eyes that probe deep in desperation—pay no mind. It is only the nectarines talking.
He quiets. Once again his beguiling smile returns, his wild eyes and half-spent breaths with it. A cluster of Queen Anne’s lace curls around his ankle. If they whisper to him, their voices do not make a sound. But the angle of his smile says everything.
She likes to walk to class barefoot and braid feathers in her hair. She reads books in abandoned farm houses. In class she laughs at nothing, and then in the same breath writes a poem. When teachers ask her to read, she paints the text in shades of yellow and gold. She smiles softly. A mistruth never passes from her lips, and yet people find her hard to trust. It might be the way she looks at everyone. Like they’re a prize to be won for her own pleasure.
She goes to clubs at night. She dances until dawn, booze and ecstasy humming in her blood and the music pounding in her brain. She looks nothing like herself; all bone limbed and flush skinned, with eyelashes that brush her cheeks when she flutters them shut. A more delicate version of what she aspires to be. One might expect a pair of butterfly wings to sprout from her back. But it is only an illusion that drips off her skin with the break of the day, leaving the taste of lemons in her mouth.
If anyone finds her odd, they find excuses quick enough. Her mother’s a drunk; her father’s never home; she’s read too many books. They do not see the hint of a smile on her lips or feel the pull of a summer bright burn in her blood. The fact that her eyes glow gold when she smiles is just another one of her “charms.”
Of course they wouldn’t be able to see. They haven’t tasted sugared nectarines laced with glamour, or heard the roar of the hunt in their ears. She doesn’t bother to explain that her name is pronounced the same way the rustle of wheat in the sun sounds. She lets them call her Summer.
It is close enough.
I am a new kind of Virginia Woolf, with stones for bones instead of weighing down my pockets. The madness holding me down is not of singular cause, but of many. Too much work, too much noise, too much pain. Too many expectations. Not enough sleep, or time, or will to catch up. I wish to walk into the sea to fill my lungs. Become Virginia. Yet I don’t take that step. I know that even if I sink, I will not drown; I am too far gone for death. It eludes me. Bones cannot drag me down far enough to die.
So I live, I breathe, my death. My death becomes me. I am a skeleton trapped in the flesh. I rot from the inside out. And when others do not understand the dust clogging up my lungs, or the cataracts blinding my eyes, or the weight curving my shoulders ever closer to the ground, it only serves to kill me more completely. Everyday closer to the precipice, how long until I break? Today I look untouched. Human. Yet for how long?
For soon my death will rot me dry. I will be a husk, my death leaving me with shoulders bent low enough to brush the ground, head thrust back to gaze at how far I’ve fallen, but with no eyes to see it; left with blood dripping from the sores on my wrist, pain of my own creation, but without nerves to feel it; with lungs filled to the brim with dust that no amount of water could flush out, no breath to breathe, no voice to scream.
And with bones made of stone instead of rocks weighing down my pockets.