Take the naked woman from out of the shower and pop her into your mouth. Chew. Spit her out if she tastes like licorice, if she tastes like cloth. If you watch what you eat you can live longer. You can live longer if you watch what you eat.
When they jump from the windows riding a desk down like a metal dove, like catching a wave on an ocean that is nowhere near the sour part of this city, close your eyes and imagine what they would taste like: like flour, like the skin burned off a piece of chicken, like a taste you can’t get out of your mouth. Smack your lips like you swallowed a fly, like you were astonished that anything like this can happen, that buildings can fall down, that buildings fell down. No two alike.
When the woman is waving a white tablecloth out the window as if to surrender, wonder to whom she is surrendering. Shake the building and watch her fall, watch her walk to the bottom of the river and resurface like a bobbed apple. It is too early for apple picking. It is too early for apple picking so you pluck fathers by their ties and grind them between your teeth. This one tastes like chocolate. This one tastes like feathers.
Your father worked on a submarine. Your father flew airplanes, shot rifles. Your father’s eyes, good enough to see you happy, were not good enough to see other planes. Your father’s eyes, good enough to see what all this means, good enough to see that the man lying on his stomach to the left of him, to the right of him, could grow tired of shooting at cardboard and clay and could turn and shoot him, knock his glasses off his face. Your father worked in the city in a time when you only needed to say the name of the floor—the year of my birth.
On the day that no two are alike, think of near misses decades apart, think of reasons to be there: a play, a tour, a restaurant. Think of how he follows orders: down the stairs of one only to walk up the stairs of the other, that it’s safer in buildings than it is on the ground, that it is easier to reach down and scoop up than it is to reach across.
Your mother at the plaza. Your mother on the couch. Your mother not painting ceilings, your mother of what ifs. Your mother on the other end of the phone reciting numbers, times, dates, seats. Your mother taking reservations. Your mother with reservation.
The day after. The day after, a new city: take a nap after all of the buildings have been leveled, after the planes have been plucked from the air, after the stomachache. The day after. The day after, a wedding anniversary: twenty. The day after, china, platinum. Here, have a coin to remember this day, but please call heads; call heads every time. Here is a plate, but please don’t eat off it—put it on top of a sturdy shelf and have it face outwards like a beacon. Don’t use the word beacon.
Sometimes the windows will open before I can break the glass. A man is standing there: he wants to take my picture—he wants to hold what I have left in his hands like a newspaper, like the head of someone who cannot breathe. I cannot hold him, cannot grasp his body between my swollen fingers and crush the life out of him like a daylily. To capture this is to fall, pausing in midair before sliding down the side of the building like champagne pouring down the side of a flute. We drank here, once. A toast to this, that, the other thing. This was before my hands were too large to hold a glass. Before, when I was something other than what I am now, something that comes through like a guttural pulse after too many photographs and too little bread. I used to fit inside these buildings; I used to run my hands against the walls. I used to walk down the hallways with every door open, men in suits and women in red dresses wondering if there were reasons why those they love would be in a city they loved. If I could, I would make a fist around their bodies. I would put them in my mouth to keep them warm.
All rights reserved to Brian Oliu.
Illustrations by Alexander Fukui.