I. I start at the cheek, the slope slowing into the area where eyes rest. The dip of the chin, gray’s muted hue, smog on jaw. The ear, hair sheltering it. Eyebrows, eyes and the gleam trapped beneath. My mother taught me that noses are simple. At the lips, there is a cupid’s bow and plumpness to thumb. Shading spaces. Smudges of color. I spend hours, but when I peel back from the paper, it isn’t what I’ve seen on screen.
II. Abuela hovers over the cutting board. She brings the blade down for the thump of silver. My mother counters, her body bent. The questions trickle from her lips, lyrics without song. My mother holds a notebook in her hands and fits her fingers into the binding. It lies a coiled stripe, like barbed wire. Somewhere, shattered glass is swept into a corner. A box of cereal stands atop the refrigerator like a flag.
III. Abuelo arrives at the apartment. The dog winds around his heels like a scarf falling to the floor. And Abuelo finds my mother in the closet, between towers of CDs, titles tattooed across the spines of their cases. Tear streaks a film on the skin. He slides the door open: she lies salting up the carpet with saline again. Close the door: what is there to do. Pans clatter on a countertop in the kitchen. He walks away.
IV. The car is a warm capsule without air conditioner. We skim down these streets, tires pausing in potholes. People walk on these streets and I don’t see them: I fold back into the seat, let my vision fill with the dashboard. I am carsick; I am always sick; I have constant motion sickness. We swerve: my father is almost hitting. He says faggot at someone and my teeth make a slit in my bottom lip.
V. I write: Connor a dent in the grass field, bare legs framed by grass. Grayson’s hand curling over the curve of her hair in the mirror. Elena’s red lips parted around her girlfriend’s name. Graham’s eyelashes slicked by the black, bristled tongue of a mascara wand. Westie’s hand over the stripe of Govinda’s tie. My father is calling me and characters’ names. I don’t write – don’t ask me. These homes, hollowed out.
VI. I have dreams, dry but still there. Girl in the iris of the projector. Girl with her thighs stacked underneath her, tanned expanses of skin. She’s the kind of person I don’t know: pens with pastel caps, writing her letters in a neat line, a rainbow splay of different papers. The next day I am sick on the floor, in the toilet, and in bags. It is indelicate, shuttled down the tunnel of my throat. There is no poetry.
VII. Only God knows this future: which cardstock towns will stand in the pop-up book. I don’t know if I should hope to be there. I can see it now: shoulders slumped in my own jacket, curls lifting in the wind. The buildings have lights glittering in their rooftop crowns. The streets are now one-dimensional. I cast my shadow over their gravel lattice. There’s a parked car behind me, my lover waving through the window. This person is smiling.