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[title undecided]

Frenetic fireflies glinted behind her eyes that summer. I didn't know what had changed her, but she swung her arms freely, wore loose hemp bracelets with colored beads, drew wild birds with marker in the crooks of her elbows: I never knew till then she was ambidextrous. Electricity crackled and sparked between us like lightning kissing telephone wires in a midsummer storm. I kept hoping her straw-colored hair was wild and dry enough to light a fire in, but all summer long we smiled and laughed and smiled; she thirsted too much to drive her closed eyelids into the rain, so I indulged it all, glad, at least, for her presence.

Once, at school, I snuck up behind her during lunchtime as she stared intently into her white computer screen at an empty table beside the wall. As I reached out to poke her in the ribs my eyes glanced across text and the blinking cursor: Pond water festers in my veins and my heart has stopped trying to turn it into blood. I have been trying to forget myself before anyone else remembers me. I backtracked, stepped quietly away, but sometimes when she looks me in the eyes and asks me where the thunder's gone I wonder whether she heard me breathing behind her, then.

She vowed, one spring night under the stars, after hours clinging so hard to a boy's stomach as his motorbike screamed down a deserted Minnesota highway that the imprint of her clenched fists took three days to fade from his skin, to exist. This I learned after her death, after that summer, when the boy came up to the funeral podium holding a battered piece of paper that held only aimless sketches of her eyes and crumpled against it. After he left her, the only way she knew how to hold onto him was by expanding in her promise to live, and so she did wildly, desperately, swallowing soil and sunshine into her open throat to grow wildflowers out of each of her orifices. After that summer was over, they told her she had to let go. So she let autumn dry the auburn leaves and pressed her wildflowers between the pages of her journal, and as one by one the foliage fell, she let go.

Overall



I've read this piece several times and each time I read it I love it more. Your language and imagery is so beautiful, and you've adapted poetic elements of language well into a prose piece. Too often I see attempts at poetic prose come off more purple and ostentatious than eloquent; you don't make that mistake.

I feel strongly that this piece could be published somewhere. There are two moments that took me out a bit, and I think looking back at them might improve it all the more.

First:

I backtracked, stepped quietly away, but sometimes when she looks me in the eyes and asks me where the thunder's gone I wonder whether she heard me breathing behind her, then.

In the next paragraph she's dead, so in keeping with the flow, it makes more sense (to me) to have this in past tense as well, rather than switching to present tense. At any rate, it took me out a bit because I was wondering when the time was the narrator was relating, given the story preceding and following.

Next:

This I learned after her death, after that summer, when the boy came up to the funeral podium holding a battered piece of paper that held only aimless sketches of her eyes and crumpled against it.

This struck me as a little too omnipotent for your otherwise entirely human narrator. I pulled this sentence out mainly because in the sentence preceding, the narrator says he only learned this at this time. It's the detail of what the paper contained that had me wondering how he would know. How did the narrator come to pull all this together? It closes a bit too quickly, with the narrator knowing a little more than he should, and it does a disservice to the rich detail of the rest of the piece. A couple of sentences to explain how he came to know what he knew, in an organic way that flows with the rest of the story, would bring the last paragraph in line with the rest of it.

I tend to talk the most about pieces that impact me the most. You did an amazing job with this, it's a truly beautiful piece.