Your c1 hosts the memory of pre-accident Sasha—not quite a ghost, not yet a mirage. Before, your relationship was fire-breathing fervor; now she stays out of obligation. Or perhaps something more complex, like love if love were a prayer that God couldn’t hear.
She bops her head even when your friend misses a chord.
Your c2. Do you remember when she’d tickle you there? Hoarding minutes in bed, pretending that they were yours to keep, before she’d inevitably have to head home. She tickled you just to hear you giggle that very specific giggle you do. Enchanting, is what she’d call it.
You can’t feel her hand resting on your thigh.
You wonder about transference. Can she feel everything you can’t?
Your c3, the very spot that used to tingle when you’d receive a text from Sasha. Sometimes at 2 AM when her girlfriend was asleep, dreaming and needless. Sometimes on her lunch break. A short message, usually—a microscopic reminder of her existence, an anchor to keep you from floating away. Just enough to satisfy your cravings.
The nurse wears her happy mask and asks how you two met. Our origin story is complicated, says Sasha, smiling weakly.
Your c4, the one that the chiropractor always said was out of alignment. The adjustments had hurt—you had a tendency to freeze up when you weren’t in flight. Your body, a statue commemorating nothing and nobody, you’d joke. On the table, face down, you’d heard your phone buzz in your bag. I think we’d destroy each other, Sasha had written, only you hadn’t checked your phone yet, so you smiled at the brown carpet.
Your c5 still carries Sasha’s fingerprints from the first night you kissed, foolishly at Arizona Cafe. Anyone could have seen. When you got home, you scrubbed and scrubbed your neck for hours. At the sink, in the shower, in front of the TV. You spun around and held your hair up for your roommate to investigate. He noted two black imprints, the grooves winding like the paths of an exit-less maze.
Your friend finishes playing “Two Coins.” You grin, so that she feels less helpless.
You’ve never felt more alone.
Your c6 was stiff for weeks after you got rear-ended on your way home from meeting Sasha. You’d driven an hour to lend her a comic she wasn’t interested in reading. She held it, though, as if it were a wilting flower, knowing she had a piece of you in her hands. You like to think that she went home that night and ate every single page, filling herself with you.
Your c7 always felt better when rested on Sasha’s pillow. You swore she’d sucked the dreams from your head and stuffed them in her pillowcase. She wanted to know just how high you could fly, so you’d invited her to meet you at the bridge separating her life from yours. You’d split a fifth of vodka and held hands as you’d jumped into the river. You could have lived in that free-fall forever.
You still can’t feel her hand on your thigh, but you can feel her fear, sharp—like words you can’t take back.
Sasha looks at you with black holes for eyes. She says that you should get some rest, walks your friend out.
Your c8 is now made of stunted futures. When you look at Sasha you see a funhouse mirror distorting your every molecule. You know this isn’t what she left her white picket life for. You feel guilty for your fragility.
You try to wiggle your toes, but they remain still. What your brain says matters so little to your body.
Your t1 serves as an attachment for wings. That sweet spot Sasha would massage when the world felt too heavy. You’d cry on the couch, reading and rereading the label on a bottle of Cab because you thought if you could make sense of something small then maybe you could return to your body and if you could return to your body then maybe you could make it sing and if you could make it sing then maybe you’d forget the delicious freedom of flying and if you could forget the delicious freedom of flying then maybe you could forget all the rest.
Your t2 is where you broke.
When Sasha returns to the room, she kisses you on the forehead. That, you do feel. It feels like a brush fire left to go out on its own.
You try to urge her to stay, but your throat smolders and you cough up clouds of smoke. When the smoke clears, Sasha is gone, and you try to pretend that it matters.