Nicole Oquendo

The precipice between waking and dreaming. The event horizon on either side. Fragments of bone floating around in the middle of your left hand. Holes in your heart and in your face and in the walls. When you open your fist and close it again the pressure builds inside your palm like a magic spell. For what? When you open your mouth and close it again the space between your cheeks and tongue where words should be.

When you were young, your parents taught you to tie your shoes by making two loops, side by side, before tying a knot with those loops. Sometimes a double knot. They have passed this on to you because you have to know what's good for you before you lose it. You are getting older, and this doesn't make sense. They have passed the color purple on to you through the color of your walls, and the flavor on your shaved ice treats.

People say you are irresponsible. You were a daredevil once, cutting in lines at roller coasters and leaving your eyes open to feel your hair being pulled off by the force of wind and rails. You have stolen exactly four things. Two of them were buttons. You've tried to steal yellow nail polish, and beeswax for your hair. You've stolen well over four things, but never money. Now you read. People still say you are irresponsible.

You are losing track of time. There is a bird you admire for its grace and reach. Leach's Storm-petrel with its large face and eyes like two small buttons. You admire its isolation, and how its black, webbed feet don't curve but dent into triangles, and that it's darkest on the tips of its beak and feathers. Leach's Storm-petrel, with its ever growing telomeres. You admire this bird's telomeres, and their potential for immortality.

The precipice between waking and storming. A black hole. You learned in high school that the proper way to tie your shoes was not meddling with the sign for infinity, but instead making one loop, and a straight line that somehow became another loop through the magic of habit and memory. When you open your mouth to tell this story people either believe you, or they don't, or they laugh somewhere between the choice.

When you are old, you will be irresponsible. You will accelerate and decelerate at awkward speeds in a straight line. Your reactions will not be equal to the force exerted on you at any moment. When you drive, you will imagine wings tearing out from your back, and feel weightlessness below your hips as you move forward on the highway, touching no pedals with your feet. You will pretend to be all bird.

You open your mouth and close your mouth and taste the wet spot just under your tongue. The rest of your mouth is dry, and your eyes are squinting from the gathering light around you. Your friend stole a pair of sunglasses that are identical to your prescription sunglasses. When the light pushes its way indoors, through a curtain or a skylight, you wish for them. When you open your mouth and your eyes you wish and wish.

Chromosomes are weighted with telomeres on both ends so the chromosomes don't decay or fuse. Telos. The telomeres decay more and more with each chromosome replication until cells die. Meros. You are unsettled by flameless candles and wonder if they are really candles at all. You write a note people will think is fraudulent but only because there is so much weight hanging from serifs of truth and untruth.

Fragments of your ankle roll as the wedged heels of your shoes begin to unravel. You leave a trail of braided twine on the gravel below you as you become shorter, and spaces open between the heels of your feet and the heels of what were shoes. The story rolls around your mouth as you stand there, no shoes left, just plastic flaps and a jeweled binding for your toes. This is what you think of as birds rise loud and around you.

You are not a lighthouse, or a black hole, or a piece of glass. You are not a teacup, or a doily, or a stone. You are not an open mouth, or a microphone, or an eraser. You are not a horse, or a bird, a dove. Your telomeres are decaying just like the rest of ours, and when you die, your matter will be spread thick like jelly on toast. You over the earth, the moon. The space between the concepts of living and dying. Of gravity and this.

Time unravels. You do not have yellow hair, or any of the things you've stolen. You chew your fingernails in cycles, sometimes allowing them to grow long for the pleasure of biting them too short again. You show yourself in waves. You show yourself bent over a rainbow shaved ice, remembering too late that the chill of the ice remains long after the flavored syrup. You hold the ice in your mouth as long as you can.

You haven't ridden a roller coaster in ten years. You haven't ridden a bike without falling in ten years. You haven't made it a habit to look at each stone individually. You haven't remembered to water the plants, or wash the dishes. Smoke fills every crack in your mouth. You haven't remembered the equation for immortality, or the one for sleep. You will sleep when you remember. When your car starts.

For you, living and dying are as relative as waking and dreaming. Pressure builds inside your open mouth as you become aware of the air inside it. The taste of billions of particles. Invisibility on the tongue and how the tongue tries to knot itself to make words. The taste of trying to make words. Sometimes a double knot. You button your coat even though you are inside. Sunlight is relative to the dirt on your windows.

Birds have begun dropping from the sky. Red-winged blackbirds, European starlings, common grackles, and brown-headed cowbirds have all dropped from the sky. You imagine fragments of red-winged blackbirds swirling down, scorched comets, burning bright enough to light up the whole space between the ground and upper atmosphere, while you stand, watching them grow larger, blazing faster towards the earth.






I came across an article about Leach's Storm-petrels while researching something unrelated. In summary, the bird held my attention because of the theory that it is potentially immortal due to its telomere growth. While these birds do, in fact, die in captivity, the idea is still something I find fascinating.