THE REASON FOR DAISIES My body is already a carcass. My flesh, scooped out in bloody chunks, is heaped in a mound at my side. My head is shaved; my skin, rubbed raw and pink, is draped over my bones like a towel hung out to dry. I sag like a tree bough overweighed. I am already a nameless corpse. When people speak my name, I don’t hear it. The hiss of the ‘f’, the drone of the ’n', the exclamation of the ‘a' just pass me by, carrying out over my head, down the concrete sidewalks of the city, through the chatter of 1.4 million people, and eventually out to sea, mingling with the crashing of the waves. People say that names are unique or that they represent the souls of their bearers. My name is not like that. Hearing it uttered makes me wonder where the name’s owner has gone. Is she hiding under the bed? Did she leave without me? Has she died, already lying tranquil below six feet of soil and rock and sludge? If Fiona is dead, she cannot be revived. If she has left, I cannot reach her. And if she is hiding under the bed, she must be a monster. My body is greased, covered in a thin layer of slime, creating a sheen that gives my skin the sea’s glimmer, a place where names accumulate in a garbage patch. I cannot speak. My jaw is tense; my teeth are stiff; my tongue lies heavy in my mouth. Although the jaw may snap, the tongue will roll. The teeth will click, but the lips won’t part. Words are wired shut, wrapped in metal, covered in nails, dented by hammers hitting, hitting, hitting. My corpse is greased, shiny like the sea where my carcass will go when its skin has fully collapsed into its bones and when all that remains are these words of mine.
STRUGGLE You are trapped. You try to move your legs, but they won’t budge. Looking around, you see a wall in front of you, a wall to your left, and craning your head around you manage to see another behind you. But to your right, you see light. It’s a way out. You can feel the adhesive molded to your feet, and you let out a sigh of discontent. Panic floods into you. You know you need to get out. Between heavy breaths, you attempt to move your legs. After fruitlessly pulling a few times, you realize you have to be more systematic about it. Reserve your energy. You pause for a moment. On the count of three, you attempt to slam your weight onto the right side of your body. One. You tense up and breathe, attempting to focus. Two. You fortify your right leg. Panic tries to break down confidence. Three. With a violent lunge that unleashes pain into your left leg, you release it. You lift your leg up in joy and move it around to remind yourself of the feeling of autonomy. The sense of accomplishment remains with you for several seconds, but the sight of the floor underneath reminds you of the urgency of your task. You twist around, and with hesitation, place your left leg down so it points toward the exit. It’s time for the other leg. Count of three. One. You can do it. Two. It will be the same as last time. Three. Mustering all of your strength, you pull and push. The feeling of skin being peeled from your foot tells of your success. With a little more hesitation, you place your right leg down in front of the left. Your muscles ache. You can feel the tightness of your legs as you shift around trying to figure out your next move. You focus on what is ahead. You estimate it should take around eight more of these steps to reach the edge of the adhesive floor, and you don’t even know how you are going to get out after that. You suddenly feel very tired. The great expanse ahead makes it hard to stay motivated. You crack your knuckles, feel the creaking of your bones. Your legs are on fire; your head wracks with pain. You breathe in, feeling the stale
stale air fill you up completely. You breathe out, feeling your chest sink into itself. You must escape. You must. With all the determination you can gather, you repeat the process. The first few steps are just as excruciating as before. As progress is made, you feel the steps getting lighter. Energy that seems to come from nowhere surprises you, and the light moves closer and closer. The light is all you can focus on, what you must focus on. As you move, it seems to pull you closer and closer to freedom. Only a few more steps. The light starts to envelop you. You bask in it; you feel the torment finally lessen. As you inch closer to your goal, you feel yourself begin to tire. The newfound energy starts to wane, but it doesn’t matter. You are almost there. You move your left leg onto solid, trap-free ground. All that is left is the right. It feels stiff and dead as you shift all your attention to it. You can do it. You must. In one swift movement, you feel the leg swing up and touch down with its mate. It’s over. It’s finally over. Success! You give yourself a few moments to take in the new sensations: solid ground free of the trap, air that is fresh and thin and light. Sweet light that you have missed for so long. Now is not the time for celebration, however. You must escape. You look out and see that you are on a precipice--the way down too far, the way across impossible. It can’t end this way. It can’t. You are very tired from the long journey. You sit down, feeling the pain flow through you. It’s time to rest. You close your eyes and let the darkness overtake you. It’s over.
GU I LT Y PA RT I ES
The 2020 edition of Ka Nalu Ola, the annual literary magazine of Mid-Pacific Institute (Honolulu, HI).