Strawberry Feels / RaeJeana Brooks

S T R A W B E R R Y   F E E L S

I. The first time I ever thought of jumping was from the ledge of a pink staircase.

No, I was wearing pink. No, the building was pink. No, the world was pink:

The world was pink and humid the day I first attempted suicide. I may have fallen in love with gravity that day, the way it tugged at my shins  from the top of that ledge like my mother pulling off my tights after dance practice and neatly folding them away. The world was always doing things for people.

I wanted it to fold me away.

Kei spotted me from the other side and swung her legs over the railing. She locked her arms around me and I submitted to her embrace out of love, but for a moment, I felt folded.

II. Caravaggio is dying. He is not dying in the passive way that we have all acknowledged from the day we were born, but urgently. The waves loudly curl into a thousand sizes of the letter “C,” knowing fully well that Caravaggio has a terminal fucking illness that starts with that letter and I want to scream back at it. We are callousing our thumbs trying to light sparklers and the wind is contorting the flames like an almost birthday wish. I am seething quietly.

“Look,” he says, resting his hand on my shoulder. The moon is coming up. We hold each other for a moment. When  Caravaggio  wheezes it is gentle, as if to say  “I will not be alive someday soon, but I am right this second, and that’s pretty neat. Thank you for that, universe.”

We watch the moon grow fat and red, then pink, then pink, then white, over the ocean.

III. The next time I thought about dying, it stopped being cold outside. Madi sent me a message reminding me of what nice weather we’re having, and that she loves me. I love her, too. I found new lingerie in the mail and a fruit stand that reminded me of the word “serendipity.” I left with a watermelon, three mangos and three baskets of strawberries, though I hadn’t decided whether or not I like them. I grabbed a handful and ate four on the drive home, thinking that I don’t really want to die, but I also kind of do. Unfortunately, strawberries remind me of death now. Fortunately, if  I had died in a car crash, at least I’d have known I kind of like strawberries.

IV. Nathan wears his sister’s ashes around his neck in a willow tree urn. He tells me, “she’s always with me.” I stare toward the cotton candy cloud painted on the wall. “Yeah,” I whisper.

V. Mackeral was sleeping when I walked into his room. I sat on the bed next to him and tousled his hair. It’s pinker than I remember. His eyes blinked open and I could see his eyes grow excited as I came into focus. He exhaled loudly, reaching up to me.

Mackeral spoke gently, warm even as he pulled the plate of cocaine off his nightstand.

“What have you been up to?” he asked.

“Spiraling into madness,” I beamed. “How about you?”

“Same,” he chuckled.

We don’t stop laughing.

VI. Everyone I’ve met since the world turned pink is not okay. Everyone is overwhelmingly not okay, in fact, but we are all kind of okay together.

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