I told the boy that when I want to write, it is a feeling in my throat. A physical push forward. I am a girl, but I can think of it like a metaphorical erection, the semen coming out of my mouth. It is not something I want to do, sometimes, and sometimes it is. It is also something nicer: not always sexual, but just a sort of rising, like sunflowers being pushed to the side by the wind. There is a large blue sky, like the sky in anime where the clouds are heaped in endless puffy stacks, and then the sunflowers spitting yellow in the corner. Piss-yellow petals, a blur when the wind comes fast; and then—poof—a poem.
We were sitting in a Starbucks near their house, near the people I was living with and he was staying with long-term. I had an Americano with cream swirling in the bottom and he was drinking iced green tea because he hated coffee. His eyes were watching mine but I could only sense it because I was not looking at him; I looked down at the table or at the other people while I was talking. It was too sensitive a subject to look directly at him and explain. There was a low hum around us, like the beginning purr of an engine or the faraway blur of machine guns. He was looking at me very intently.
He had asked me how I express myself; who did I talk to when I felt sad? I had only known him a week and a few days. The Starbucks was dim and shaky with modern lights and the laptops of twenty-five strangers. The coffee was like a wet dog tongue in my throat. I did not know, then, what kind of person he was or why he was talking to me. I don’t mean that sentence to sound ominous. He did not turn out to be a pervert or a serial killer or a rapist or even someone hiding severe childhood trauma. He was a normal person. I was too, which is why I was nervous. When normal people interact the universe can go into overdrive; suddenly we have to convince ourselves we are special. We are making human mythology out of the small things. He looks at me, says hi, makes a joke; and Helen of Troy runs off with whats-his-name and the English burn Joan of Arc and someone assassinates Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The fucking entirety of European history in an interaction that could be replicated by an AI chatbot and we call it a “love story.”
I had stopped talking and was staring down at the table. Are you okay? he said.
Yeah, I’m fine. I’m sorry, I zoned out.
You zoned out? He looked confused. He was not the kind of person to loose himself in stupid self-dissections and analyzations. When I imagined him thinking, I imagined feelings and ideas going through his head like a movie; they went through my mind like words.
I zone out all the time, I said. I was half-laughing but also embarrassed. Mostly self-conscious. I zone out while I’m brushing my teeth or I’m in the shower or reading or watching something. When we watched Naruto: everytime there was an action scene, I just went into my head.
Yeah. My mom hates it, because I take so long showering. Or washing the dishes, or whatever. Our hot water bill is always worse when I’m home.
He scrunched his face up, considering. I don’t that do that, he said, finally.
Is that when you write your poetry?
Sometimes it’s when I get the feeling. But the writing always comes in person. It’s the physical act of the thing.
Around us people were talking quietly or loudly or sometimes almost yelling. He had brown eyes and they seemed almost canine. Sometimes feral or serious or weirdly loyal. Sometimes bright and ready, sometimes raw sad pits. I did not know what they were now; I was looking into his eyes without realizing it.
Our table was under a low window, the sky cut into four squares. Outside, the wind knocked politely into the city and the flowers knocked into the glass. Not sunflowers, but close; pink hollyhocks and overgrown prairie grasses with small flowers. He looked at me and I explained poetry; bang went the gun as someone shot the Austrian and started the last great war.