i. "this is our island," you told me. you said it like i didn't already know. "this is ours." just to remind me.
"i know," i said. i expected it to taste like bile and cigarette butts, but it was empty and we said little after that. my eyes, dimmed, too, swept around the scenery: you with your hands digging in your pockets, looking for a lighter already; blackbirds, maybe crows, lining the tree across the river, or what was left of it. the entire bed was empty and dry, and that's how everything felt - empty and dry. cold and clear. yet somehow, arid. stifling.
neither of us could catch a breath, to say the least.
the dust was picking up and it was windy. you, encircling me, enfolding me in your arms. you, whispering something - me, not listening, not even for a second. your fingers graced the surface of my skin and i did not flinch when the end of your cigarette - still lit - traced a shaky path alongside it. i just closed my eyes. i must not have been breathing because i couldn't see it in front of me, and everything was so cold that was all that was really left. the water was gone and we were no longer an island - or standing on one, i should say. the log we used to cross over was long-dead and rotted, caved in on the middle. i was the first to walk across and i fell straight through. probably you laughed - you must have. but i don't think you said anything about it, and neither did i.
the cup we left from before was still there, sitting on the rocks. it was a lonely island of itself.
i picked it up, opened my mouth a little, and looked at you. your stare was blank but i think you saw it was coming. i pivoted, just slightly, and threw it as hard as i could.
ii. the birds picked up and flew off, and the next thing i know, i am sitting on a train.
everything is blue. it's a bit like looking at the world through the lens of a camera - one minute, sepia, the next, cyan. warmer than that, though. deeper. darker.
i had only ever been on a train once in my life, when i was little. i think it was for easter. now, i don't know what the month is, or the occasion, but i'm sitting turning a cup in my hands on the table. if i'm not mistaken, it's the same one.
i shake my head and stand up to walk away, but i bump into someone wearing dark grey.
words have left me entirely. i open my mouth to speak but find nothing and try to just shuffle past. whoever it is stops me, grabs my wrist, gently but with authority i can't place. the hand is rough, well-worn, but warm. i look down and then up. a change of scenery - again. not a boy but not near a man either. blue eyes. blond hair. questionable expression.
i expect him to say something, but words must have left him, too. we pause for a moment and then he lets go; i look down, and move on down the aisle. i do not hear his footsteps in one direction or the other but i don't dare turn around.
the tension is stifling.
somebody says it. i do not know who. but it was what we were both thinking, and i stop.
iii. my hands, balled into fists at my sides. his, shuffling in his pockets, fiddling with his thumbs, crossing his arms. i look up, and the train lurches to a halt.
cups and chandelier lights, shaking. him, grabbing the seats on either sides to steady himself. me, too frozen to think, suddenly falling and colliding with him. hands grabbing fistfuls of shirts and then, nothing.
the train has steadied and stopped, now, but we're still holding each other. we needed an excuse and we basked in it, like a serpent coiled in the sunlight. a reason - that was it.
but i can't do it. not yet. i uncoil myself from him and push my palms against his chest and i do not dare look up to meet his eyes. i can feel them already, and seeing them would be too much. we are of little words and somehow i am still the first to speak. "what?" that's all i can manage.
"you're bleeding," he says. his voice is thick with concern and only now do i look up. how i didn't notice it before, i have no idea, but there is a gash across my cheek and soon my whole mouth is metallic salt. my eyes are blank but full of fear. not for the blood - but everything else.
"let me help you," he tries, and takes a cautionary step toward me. my nerves stand up on end and my head screams a heavy no. but my body, automatic, leans into it and i think i say 'okay'. my eyes squeeze shut, hard enough for colours to turn circles over everything. hard enough to forget where i am, who i'm with, what i'm doing. hard enough to stay still when a hand, his, traces my jawline and the train begins to move again.