Fiction by Erin Smith

Where I Fold In Half

I watch the ash drift to the ground and imagine myself buried, naked and hairless, in a volcanic plume. Bald body curled up and covered in sulfurous dust. So violently erupted from the whites of my lashless eyes, sideways eggs. A consolation of burning passion. An unknown feeling that is still somehow familiar.

I have spent so long floating on glass-gray, waveless waters. Surrounded by fog and silence. So long waiting for the strike of the funeral arrow. Fire me. Erupt me.

I am an eavesdropper, smoking surreptitiously on my back porch and listening to my neighbor’s shirtless conversations about work affairs and civil lawsuits and cocaine with his invitees-partygoers-friends. It gets hot in a small home with that many bodies.

Watched and watching, the paranoia sets in amongst the din of many dinners. Mothers talk to mothers at the bar. Suited men leave through a revolving door. Bass beats and mood lighting and open-door kitchen clatters. A woman laughs loudly, deeply, rumbling in a way that reaches like a beckoning hand across the restaurant. Too drunk at the company happy hour and she knows it. She quiets. She hangs back when everyone leaves. I have been her. I understand.

I am a secret meat eater. A carnivorous craver of fast food chicken sandwiches and beef bolognese from the expensive restaurant across the side street that my old townhouse was hidden on decades ago.

I want no one to know me as I know myself. Like saying what you wished for after blowing out the birthday candles, I become untrue. I become unrealized and unborn as though none of it had ever happened to begin with.

Here I am, I can say. Here I am perpetually torn between pyroclastic explosion, the intensity, the heat that goes beyond heat, emission and admission, a seismic expulsion from deep within my crust — and misty oceans without tides, without vision or existence, where the only feeling is endless, comforting fuzz, the only noises are the groanings and creakings of the worn wood boat, and the drip drip dripping of accumulated, beaded-up mist rolling off my nose into the uninterrupted glassy waters forever.

I fold my hands under my chin, affected like Mary Magdalene. Like a martyr, though unsainted and denied my holiness. Like a thing, already ended, begging for salvation at too late an hour.

I cradle myself like a good book. Like the mother cradles her sleeping toddler at the dinner table. Like a bite of a steaming hot delicacy, scooped gently into a spoon and journeying with a careful hand to my consumer’s mouth.

I am a bug trying to be a mammoth. I am resurrected and dead. I am less than a moth, a microscopic insect bashing my head against the window pane with deafening thuds, demanding to be let into the lamp light. I am trying to be a woman of substance.

Erin Smith

IG: @erin.aesmith

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