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Fire Drill Fish Tanks

I thought it had all ended. I thought when I told him I couldn’t handle it and that it was a bad time, it would be over in a millisecond. But he called. And he called again. He called a third time. A fifth time and an eighth time. I tried so hard to concentrate on the bed spread I was resting on because I had nothing else left. It was from Ikea and my mom liked the cotton candy pink color that it carried because it reminded her of me... Whatever that's supposed to mean.

Every time the vibration on my phone went off, so did everything else. The disappearances started small. First the watch on my night table. Then the sneakers on my floor. The picture above my bed. They got bigger. My dresser. My television. The floor and my bed underneath me. It got deeper. My skin, my blood, my veins, until the only thing left was my mind and the bones shaking beneath it. My eyes came into play as my eyelids carried weights. They began to drop. My pupils slowly darkened until they resembled the dark corners I always feared as a kid, and the color I used when I drew pictures of my hair or I outlined a figure. I felt outlined in black in that moment. And the crickets screams got louder and the filter of my fish tank depicted the sound of fire drills at school. I closed my ears with my fingers, but no matter how much force I used, no matter how hard I pushed, they wouldn’t leave.

I was on the phone with a friend. She kept repeating,“Talya. It’s gonna be okay." It didn't really make a difference. But then I started to process her words. Every word she used, everything became quieter. The cricket’s shrieks turned to serenades. My fire drill fish tank resembled an ocean. I gave into my eyelids and let them close. I took breaths. With every inhale I thought of his words, and with every exhale I released him from my mind. With every inhale I drew up the items missing from my room, and with every exhale they were brought back. And as they came back, so did my feelings. I wasn't so numb anymore. As I exhaled and my skin grew back, covering my bones, the mosquito bites aligning my skin burnt heavily. As my eyes were brought back to color, so was everything else in my room. My cotton candy sheets came back from black, and returned to pink. But not cotton candy pink. My sheets were the pink color my face turns when I fell down that one time in class. My sheets were the pink color of the shirts I wore in elementary school and the color I used to paint cheeks in the summer and flowers in the spring. The only thing that wasn't black were my veins. They were white. I watched them as they slowly turned back to blue. To green. To red. I threw on a sweatshirt. It smelt like him. Like fresh laundry. Laundry washed with so much detergent, it was overwhelming. Almost unbearable.

It was so perfectly coordinated. Like you planned it out. Like you wanted to match your clothing to your personality. You're so fucking unbearable.

"The Tikoloshe"

On Wellington Street

I found the young man, sitting low below the small bulb of the street lamp. He was homeless, his clothes disheveled, his eyes bloodshot, and his hair and beard caught and twisted in knots. I had seen him a couple of times before then, though never in such a state. He was...sadder than usual. I went up to him, and asked if there was something bothering him, more than the usual I mean. I made sure that I made that clear. He looked at me, his jaw slack, and his cheeks sunken.

“What...What time is it?”

I looked down at my phone and told him it was eight at night.

Upon hearing this, he put his head in his hands and began to sob.

I stood there, upset at myself for coming over to talk to him. What had I been thinking? What did I expect was going to happen? He stopped suddenly, his cries silenced, his breathing shallow. What he said next distresses me to this very day.

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