The Effects of Sun on Plastic by Anika Kotapally
TW: mentions of physical abuse, past abusive relationship
When I was little, I found a lump of misshapen plastic, left in the corner of the garage in the mid-August heat. When I asked my mother what it was, she told me it was a little plastic ball I loved as a baby. I remember crying, wondering how I could’ve forgotten something I’d loved so much, how it could’ve slipped through the cracks in my memory like water through my cupped hands, how my forgetfulness could’ve warped something I had known like the back of my hand into something I could barely recognize.
I remember you like phantom pains, like neck sores, like the reverberations of a punch. I go to a bookstore and see a Fleetwood Mac vinyl and feel something like blue-violet on my collarbone. When I see a man drinking, when his whiskey-soaked breath washes over me, something wine-dark opens on my cheek. My memories of you are whisper down the lane, each version of myself distorting them just a little, until what I have now is only the same in the bile that rises in my stomach when I touch them, the way I move through the rest of the day, faded and misty. When I called my mother in the after, as red was shifting into violet was shifting into brown, she cried on the phone for a long time. When I hung up, I threw out my five extra bottles of concealer. I threw out a life I promised myself I would never go back to.
When I roll your name around in my mouth it gets caught between my teeth like popcorn shells. When I pull it out, syllable by syllable, my gums bleed, until all I can taste is metal and tears. In my support group, cold metal chairs in a circle, walls papered in affirmations and promises that you can move forward in bright blue and green and yellow, I sit with ten other people who have the same memories as me; they know what I mean when I say I can’t listen to someone shouting without goosebumps raising on the back of my neck. The group therapist tells us trauma makes memories shift and change and disappear; they tell us it’s okay for our memories to change as we do. When I talk to my mother, she says it's a gift; forgetting is a gift. Maybe it’s because my memories of you are warped, plastic that has sat too long in the sun, that red beanies make my heart thud into my throat. Maybe that’s why when I see a man with a black jean jacket walk down the street my body releases adrenaline like preparation, be ready to run again.
When I think of you your face is blurry; I can’t remember its eyebrows or nose or mouth. When I think of you I can remember your hands, a ring on your right middle finger. I can remember your fists, the way they curled into themselves, your shoulders, the set of them that only ever came before the pain. I can remember how my hands shook when keys rattled in the lock of our door. I can remember the rancid knot of fear, tucked into the left side of my chest, the way its taste rose into my throat when you put your arm around my shoulders. I can remember the way fear crawled into my mouth when I packed a bag in the middle of the night and climbed down the fire escape. I can remember how it turned into terror as I ran, pressing flight into my bones, desperation in every crease between my eyes, the cuts my nails left in my palms. I can remember how I had to stop, throw up the fear and panic, clear them out of my stomach like food that went bad a long time ago. I remember you like a voice, red and raised, like purple blooming into my cheek, like something that still hurts to touch.
When plastic sits in the sun too long, it warps and twists and deforms. But the plastic is still there. The plastic is still here.
"Forest Scenery," Noor Usmani
Daylight Mazurka by Sarah Weng
In the daytime, everything is bathed in light. Warmth seeps into every gold-tinted crevice facing the sky.
Gazing down at the Earth below her weightless feet, the brazen, lively Day beams brightly. The fiery sun hangs like an amulet at her bosom, moving along steadily as she glides across the horizon. Her breathy laugh can be heard in the breeze as she towers over the people frolicking upon the illuminated land. She loves watching these little humans and the nature that surrounds them, deriving her ebullience from the unadulterated purity she sees in every living thing.
Day continues her tango across the horizon with abandon, her heart unfettered like the bracing winds she kicks up with the hem of her skirt. When she tires, she lies down to rest beyond the horizon, the sky darkening as the sun at her chest retreats behind land and sea. Darkness overtakes the warm glow of dusk and a new dance begins.
Day is neither living nor dead. She is eternal, only stepping aside for Night to take the stage as she rests just out of sight.
She is unstoppable, moving in lockstep with time itself.
But when she sees the smog rising from the ground, obscuring the radiance of the sun at her chest, she is almost stymied by the noxious fumes. Her lively steps turn to trudging as she loses sight of the world that had once flourished beneath her feet. Her heart grows heavy as she watches the earth she steps upon wither, its vitality leached by the hubris of man. When she weeps, feeling devoid of the joy she once felt when looking upon the forsaken world she traversed, her tears fall in purifying rain. For a moment, some of the impurity is washed away, and through the thinning veil, she sees the true abomination.