Catherine Peng

He was nostalgic for places he didn’t visit. Words and smells and sounds that never existed — yearning like an apricot pit, long gone flesh but you pop it into your mouth and suck the dried up core anyway. Rug-a-tug-tug tongue feels thick like sludge, so nothing is singing, but the sound could be there, an unknown. He wanted to know if it did sing, ever, before it got caught in his throat. But also, maybe some things are best to not know.

He had the same friends, from childhood to adulthood. Chummy guys who get together and partake in rituals, spiritual divinity in the form of Sunday night football. Another great season! Comfort is the highest form of intimacy. Sarah, how is she? Choreography they know, but who wrote the steps? Oh, the same, taking film classes, she loves it. Tall, white, sharp faces, broad laughs, a familiar smile, corny joke. Maybe there’s news on occasion, but only as the infrequent stumble out of a tap line.

How many animals fear death? I hope not just humans. Evolution works in funny ways, pits in stomachs have purpose — to keep us alive, to keep us from injury. Stepping lightly on hot stones because callouses take time, burning hurts in the meanwhile. Avoiding heartache is probably good, the stress can’t be healthy. But he wondered. Striving — a new thing, a prickle that you feel, physically, and it hurts in a way that scares you because it feels good. Static is Valium, so maybe change is an upper.

Click, click, click, moments that flow like a montage. And they’re beautiful, a quilt, deliciously warm and comforting. Safety in a thousand worlds, a permanence that the real world doesn’t offer. And he falls in love with the story, the better one. Where the sights are beautiful and kind and never-changing, and friends and lovers blend into a happy blur. Observed, always, but never touched, except for Photoshop. Asexual reproduction. A life, replicated into oblivion, but always so beautiful.

Smelling like a younger self, a scent that’s been worn since puberty. It’s good, young, the color blue. A scar marks time in a way, you got it from falling, once. There was a football game involved, or soccer, or some other forgotten pastime. There, it still is though, white and silver and a pocket-knife thick. A hug feels like falling back in the earth, enveloped in an hour gone by. They sell these heavy comforters to help people sleep, you’re kind of like that. A person could stay there forever; I miss the weight.

Beauty is a hard thing to leave. You’re watchable, your own film reel, give the world some popcorn and we might all be entertained. Beauty in a way that is unknown, it stumbled onto you like a tipsy night out, but that is seen, because it is everywhere you capture. Seeking, seeking, find you a purpose through comfortable adventures. Still following choreography, you won’t fall, I promise.

Trying involves failure involves fear involves death. A tautology? An anagram? I can’t be sure, never took math logic like you. An algorithm would be useful, it’d help to try figure you out, bring you out of the dimness of an enigmatic beauty. Life so seen, so shadowy, so ingrained in a question mark you’re scared to answer.

I wish you never kissed me. Maybe it was inevitable, after standing in my room for two hours, after getting lunch one time to talk about majors, after meeting you one time at a dinner where I played with my hands too much. I remember the first time I saw you, a boy in a Matrix coat. Maybe it was inevitable since then.

Kissing and I’ve become like you. Seeking beauty in dead places, craving it like a high, a hit, reset button. Snap, snap, snap: you, an album too beautiful to read, nostalgia of a time that never happened, sadness of a maybe, a conditional. Your face is a capsule I take to get stoned on potential. I think you are meant to leave this place, because I want you to kiss me again too much for you to stay.