photo of an owl

China Girl by Kyle Hemmings

I

Is unpremeditated sex on a hot afternoon of dead flies. Anchovy breath is a rumor. The crazy taxman two houses over had to put down his dog. It was breathing too fast. Lost interest in mating. And China sighs after a drink of cool oolong tea. Like a fluttering pretentious girl. Faking inertia. As if the core of the earth is not molten lava. And China can walk barefoot across the city’s highest tightropes. She’ll never admit to the nightmares. Falling through windows. The first time she discovered her parents having sex in a sweltering room. She disowned their shadows, their excuses stuffing her like some green bean paste she always wanted to spit out. She’ll never cook for a man without calluses, without fears. She’ll vomit the moon. Pre-coital asteroids are for hopeless virgins stuck on books. Face to face, their eyeballs running secret alphabets. China will never show you the rope cuts under her feet. China will fuck you until you are as soft, as spongy, as husband cake.

II

In your sleep, an owl hoots. Routers says the murder was committed at three A.M. It was the same night that China erased you. Or left you with some pink artificial afterglow and her lemon scent. You were so full of her that you forgot to wake up. Days later, after you interrogated her with long needles and misshaped words, her straight raven hair drenched with rain, she admitted to a girl-lover. What is her name? you asked. Twitter-Girl. Bitter-Girl, she said. Or call her Honey, the color of her vagina’s expandable poorhouse. For her I was only closet straight. I tried to fit my sex into her leotard. We became freaks of love. I ran and returned with sweet rain. She asked me to do it. We were too much the same to live as one. Her cancer was called Not Ever Getting Enough. The world was out of miracles. At the bottom of a lily pod, her green eyes stay open. I was never this poor.

When the inspector comes, you tell him that no girl is named China. And anyway, you thought the case was closed.

III

We play a game of canasta during a thunderstorm. She says if rain could be pennies from heaven, our windows would crack with the wind. I draw a joker worth 50 points. When China undresses, I am richer than what lives under cracked earth. When the rain stops, when her aunt has gone to bed wearing a blindfold, China asks me if I will ever love her beyond this season of mad Tuesdays, of ruined softball games, of choir boys with dirty minds. Her eyes adrift, soft then sinking. I can deal her thoughts: the father who is a prisoner of war, starved bodies under thatched huts, silence as the last weapon against hollow-eyed captors. A country full of dark hours of the moon. Cast shadows blacker than anywhere. His letter never comes. She turns, breaks the spell. If you could buy me, if I were something you so needed, how much would you pay? she asks. There are worms under my tongue. I’m beginning to open up. I’m starting to fold. She wins the game.

Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey. He has been published in Elimae, Smokelong Quarterly, This Zine Will Change Your Life, Matchbook, and elsewhere. He loves cats, dogs, and garage bands of the 60s.

Lead image“Yellow eyes owl” (via Flickr user Wall Boat)