by Quinn Christensen
Quinn Christensen is a writer from St. Paul, Minnesota. Her work has appeared in Lunch Ticket, Horse Egg Literary, Journal of Erato, and others. She is currently working towards a BA in English at Bryn Mawr College and finishing a short story about a missing goat. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @quinnjillayne.
I love him and so I leave my hands in his bedroom. Peel off fingernails and tuck them into the carpet. He vacuums and vacuums but I stay stuck. Do you remember that thing kids used to say about fingers? That a human thumb is just as easy to bite through as a carrot, but your brain will never let you tear through your own? Try it. Leave a knuckle between angry teeth. Tell yourself you want to feel the shredding, want to feel the blood run down your throat. In this story, Edgar Allen Poe is a teenage girl and the tell-tale heart is just a heart. Is just a heart, breaking. Is just fingernails left under an ex-boyfriend’s floorboards.
We break up and I write the end before it’s over, just like I always do. He moves away and meets the love of his life and maybe he meets her tomorrow, maybe he met her today, maybe he meets her 25 years from now. Maybe I watch him kiss new girls again and again and think, each time, that I see a ring on her babiest carrot of a finger. Maybe I never do. Maybe we find our way back to each other and the heat is sweltering like it was on the night we said goodbye for the first time, drenched in tears and sweat in the back of my car, choking on salt and comeuppance. Like it was the last time we reunited, sticky palms touching in the same backseat where we had our first kiss. And maybe we will kiss again. Maybe I will taste the ocean and feel his hands on me. And maybe he is gone and maybe he always has been. I sweat through these thoughts, leaving them pit-stained and ugly. I don’t know the answer to anything.
I go to college and I come home and I go to college and I come home and I get ready to pack up all my things again and every goodbye throbs like a severed thumb. I miss seasons I love in places I love, split exactly in half across the country. So I divvy myself up. Send my legs running back to those stunning Pennsylvania autumns. Gouge my eyes out and bind them up in my shoelaces, let them make the journey too, so that they can rest in that place they dream of. I look through photographs and flinch at the sight of last year’s changing leaves, of last year’s golden light in golden dorm rooms. I miss this, I think to myself, and then I laugh, remembering that’s where I’m headed in just a few weeks. Back to October playlists and glorious days of golden friendship. But I can’t let all of me go. So I cut off my hair, tuck a lock beneath my chair at the dining room table. I flake off my skin and bury it in the backyard. I peel off my eyebrows, gnarly like caterpillars, and let them wriggle on the sagging lilac bush. My home is me and I know this and I feel fossilized for it, and somehow, that makes everything a little bit harder and a little bit more okay.
On the last day of summer, I will eat baby carrots in ups and downs and rights and lefts and wrongs and rights. I will eat them so fast that I will begin to worry about puking as the plane takes off. I will slip in a finger. I will bite down as if I, too, am orange. The separation of flesh and bone and blood and love is inhuman but it will happen and it is happening and so I will spit and I will care and I will carry. I will kiss him goodbye. I will leave my hands in his bedroom. I love him, and this is how it aches.