In the womb, she frolics in umbilical cords. Lullabies echo as saltwater laps in her embryonic form. Her shape is perennially moulding: grassy dimples, dishwater veins, and basal tear runoff. Fetal hands and feet tingle in her mother’s dreams. Gestation is approximately complete. The doctors are arriving with their syringes and epidural remedies, but now she’s brimming with energy. Her mother has anticipated this moment for an eternity. Oblivion and then sound. Darkness and then light. Exhilaration lurks behind her taste buds, but there are evermore symptoms of living. She was three minutes old when she initially saw her mother cry: the first memory of hers besides the orange beneath her eyelids.


           Her mother child-proofs the house, smiling at Tupperware. Wee hands imitate those of the family tree, following fingertips and touching the slopes of distinctive noses. The sun filters through the curtains and they’re laying in the quiet light. She learns how to arch her back, how to say “no,” and the witchery of questions (“Do you want this?” “Do you want that?” “Where’s your nose?”). Sunny daze and burnt eye contact, vibrations and currents swirl through her paint-splattered walls, as she develops between the fine lines. She is enraptured by the beauty in human mundanities, like knobby knees and little idiosyncrasies.


           Toddling, brick alphabet blocks, and the withdrawal of coddling: this is year two. On her tiptoes, she’s on pins and needles. She asks questions, so many questions, but she can’t sufficiently articulate her inquisitiveness (“Go?” “That?” “Me?” You?” “Us?”). In the heavy days of June, her mother hums along to The Beatles’s “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” and she comprehends the architecture
of feeling, harmonies, and reverb. She will relish in the music ceaselessly since concrete incantations flower there. She slow dances to the almost-defunct grandfather clock; the incessant ticks comprise the motion of waiting. Waiting forthree.


           She loosely utters in her mother’s tongue. “Why?” is her borrowed sound, but the question mark has indelibly adhered to the word. She loves colours and orange is her favourite pigment, intensity, and hue. Periodically she blacks out and overlooks how to breathe, but apparently, that’s typical. She unscrews mason jars and counts stars in the violet sky. She flaunts warmth and apathy and curiosity and the blues. Cherry knots and an acrid tongue remit her words as an unabridged contagion. A pallid temptress in the composition: she fantasies a lot; she fantasies a little.


           Sunbathing on the cryptic side of the moon, her first friend transpires from the ether. They command the world atop jungle gyms: crawling into stegosaurus stomachs, side-stepping earthworms, popping bottle caps off with their two front teeth and admiring rosebuds in concrete. She devours mulch and laughs with her meagre body. Fireflies ricochet around her body and she vows she’ll name a star after every friend she greets. The poetry is reincarnation and materialism furthermore withered away. The earthy tang of the universe rushes into her parted lips
and she doesn’t understand it will soon get denser than this.


            The indulgence of self-control and meltdowns and lore undergoes regularly. 20/20 vision equalizes the veneer of reality. Perception is becoming undressed. Fasten her sincerity up by the back door, but leave the faucet running. Her mother loathes zippers. She loves zippers. It’s the spring of Kindergarten, but she doesn’t want to leave. She aspires to please her mother. She aspires to please her friends. She learns prepositions and the itsy-bitsy spider. The world spinning, and the stupor of reality is enhancing. She loses her first tooth when her friends jostle her down the yellow slide at recess. She cries in the nurse’s office and ponders why her friends are so mean.


            Green. She’s grown two and a half inches, well at least according to the Sharpie etched by the kitchen door. Her mother percolates God into a decaf coffeepot, and she howls like heaven manifested. Pencil markings secrete her bedroom wall with narratives of angels and demons, for she's perpetually choking on bile. Her religion moves in an elliptical motion. Red. With ichor gushing through her temporal veins, she inquires who God is. She
inquires where God goes to weep. She wonders why her mother prays. She thinks she will recapitulate writing until she dies.


            She’s seven and she knows everything and nothing. Literature is enchanting and math is bland. Add empathy and subtract all the fantasizing . She slips off her bicycle, scrapes her shins and punctually refuses to ride. The next day she gets back on again. She’s pliable and ever-changing. Flourishing in her ribcage occupy tucans in the ripe hollows, but it demands an ocean not to splinter. The world exists in her succulent fruits. She wants to be herself more than anything else available at the second. She has ruminating companions and names six stars.


           She’s coordinated. She’s uncoordinated. She’s explosive. She’s stagnant. She’s bold. She’s mute. Feigned confidence unveils the self-doubt and the vicious skin. Self-consciousness consumes her persona every day. Is she too thin? Is she too unapproachable? Girls are pretty. She doesn’t feel pretty at all. She has bitten-to-the-pulp fingernails and scars, soundlessly and simultaneously, severed the organdy depressions of her body. She’s unfiltered and sensual and an anomaly of an enigma. The beeswax sun melts into the estuary, and her sixth sense intrudes.


            On the cusp of adolescence, she feels claustrophobic. She gets her introductory period and tells her mother she loathes her body. Her mother emphasizes the beauty of girlhood; it shall always ache at first. She delves into writing again with her fancy curlicues and invisible dots. She becomes anxious after her best friend forsakes her for someone shiny and new. The congested swing sets are desolate now, and she slips off the monkey bars, but it's facile to suffocate in the provocative crowd. Loud-mouthed and explosive heartbeats cannot be contained in squares two by  two.


           She is a decade matured now. Her balance evolves by walking on curb stops in parking lots. She experiences acne and picks at her face at least thrice a day. She skips school on days of group projects and dreams more than nine hours a night. Self-destructive tendencies appear too stable, and she's too raw. She falls apart every night underneath the radioactive, glow-in-the-dark planets adhered to her bedroom ceiling. There are no more indulgent bike rides
to her friends' places, so she abhors herself for being too cruel, and locks herself in her empty bedroom. Her atoms have always been magnetized  by the spectacle of laughter.


           Breasts, hips, and every fissure of her anatomy: her body doesn’t resemble those magazine covers. She should tuck her stomach in and develop some thicker skin. Insecurity and jealousy emit from her ears and nose and feet. She is 11 and she is not authorized  to dream. She consumes lunch alone in the bathroom. Apples. Celery. Pizza. Milk. The sunshine doesn’t feel sympathetic anymore, for depression travels in like tidal waves. Bloody knees and blooming greenery—she’s a juxtaposition. The solar system regenerates what was once theirs, as supernovas collide in the precise place where her heart and head convene.


           As she is oxidized  by the sun, she’s immortal and fluid. She climbs out of her bedroom window on weekends and uses obscenity at school. Validation of others is now her singular priority. Strangers dip their palms into her waterfall body; daylight basks through the creases of her dreams and her eyebrows furrow to the simper of light's incarnation. Peer pressure tastes like gasoline and quells her self-esteem. She struggles with her identity and discovers the curative value of tea. Her mother notices her subversive streak and she abruptly becomes meek. Stick. Relapse. Drive. It’s inescapably time to rearrange herlife.


           The inception of melancholy bleeds through the plastic. She only has a year left of sanity, so she squanders it sensibly. The calenture of summertime likens to lush jungle vines and serpentine, tiger moons. She engages with poetic souls and embraces their memory more than them themselves, like a rifle to her lungs. Their residue trickles into her thoughts now and then, especially when happiness seems palpable. Her heart is paper-thin; hold still, Sylvia
Plath. Salvage ocean eyes and abrade vinyl curvatures with gaping needles. When the sky dipped indigo and she forgot how to swim, she felt enraptured by the leaves, trees and wind.


            Teenage talk, antidepressants, and cars: welcome to high school. By the time you’re through, you’ll be blue and bruised. She vows to articulate the truth even though her voice shakes, quivers, and she can’t hold a tune. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting. It's infinity. Days merge into months and months into years. The longevity of idle melancholia inverts into repose: fevered handshakes, futile dialogue, warm bodies, salmon eyelids, and watermelon tongues. Mother earth is light-years away from sunset. She’s 14 years old and she doesn’t believe in unconditional love, but she can systematically recite geometric postulates and proofs.


            She is devouring mulch to undulate her empty fissures with poetry, or as they say, cavities. Steadfast, she gobbles at sunbeams, digesting the bile for an almost-noon breakfast. She attains her extensive height, but her potential is still underdeveloped. She pulverizes pomegranate pulps and spits out the rotten parts. To fraternise with the enemy is to suffer a lingering death, but it's abrasion. They will never reap her curiosity again, in regards to her rabbit anticipation. Her syntax has spoiled, but at least she has a curated playlist for every season. Count down her body weight.


           She’s traipsing in Eden’s garden, harmonizing  along with the birds and bees, deciphering Adam’s foreign analogies. Swallowtails prod at her feet, as they are urging her to speak. The oblique constellations disbanded across her nose reflect her divine ambivalence. Jupiter’s rings curve around her wrists and Orion's belt dances across her size-zero waist. She digests chrysanthemums for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She ripples through the garden, trampling on flowers and stealing honey from the bees, licking the rims of her seashell teeth. Corridors birth earthlight, but she has crooked teeth and nervous knees.


           Her lover’s got koi fish swimming amidst their distortions, a lily pad spinal cord and folklore flowers swimming up to their thighs. Her lover is glaring at her cherry lips with tentative revulsion, and she’s distraught because attachment is invariably too fleeting. She'll still unravel with the slightest of touch. She nevertheless retains every birthmark and pressure point. They used to dance to Bowie in the living room beneath papaya sunsets. When she bathes in the maars of their density, the rapids won't lull them backwards. They both avoid idle conversations, and they don’t fancy each other anymore, but they still get coffees on 16th Street one concluding time.


           The sky’s tender and she’s the moon. Time is laconic. They’re arguing and embracing and crying and hugging. Scrabbling with ancient heroines engraved on the marble calluses of her mother’s fingers, she. wishes telepathy dwelled in her wit. Pulsating goodbyes stimulate damage control. She’s 18 and combustible. She immures the earth with begrimed palms, and daybreak is on the summit of her tongue. Rapture is the interlocking of pulpy, carved-out flesh. Appetites of the body are blooming, yet smothered in detritus. She is unfolding and so am I, feeling the same heat as I did; freshwater backbone as we share a chameleon soul.

What do you think of "Eighteen"? You can tell Wendy by putting her name, your email, "Eighteen" in the subject, and your message so she can see your comment!

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East Fork:

A Journal of the Arts​​


Eighteen

​By: Wendy Hahn