We Are Birds
Elysia Smith

We aren't virgins. Not to anything.
When the music is playing, all that heavy indigo makes our heads spin. From a smoky corner, lights dim enough to see ghosts, we hear that banjo. It sounds like wisdom. The paint is cracked in our corner. Little lines like a spider web move out and above, the walls are yellowed by cigarettes, ours and the people before us. Though we pretend like there were no people before, like there will be no people after. We dance when we want.
But, night looks different as we walk home. Like the shooting stars have forsaken the clouds and the children don't cry for their mothers, and it is quiet.
The bathroom is warm, a window open to the stale moonlight, making the mirror sweat. My cat perches on the sill.
We all think we are birds and then we eat them and forget.
My head is a valley of shiny things, I think. I look at the streaks of myself in the mirror. In spaces between flesh there are ideas, flowered with lace and silver and pearls, but I don't want it. Not a blurred life of someone half my age, or twice my age: girls and women jealous of their reflections in shop windows. I laugh. I spit red into the sink.
When I see him, I think he is too thin. Swinging reckless behind me, the bathroom door severs my shadow.  The bedroom reminds me of a foggy Polaroid, a threadbare, exotic moment captured and kept. Candle light drips down the pale wall and I am cloaked in pale nothings. His face, as his eyes meet mine, lacks that wonder, that frenzy of the first time, of the third time. Still, his breath falls on my ear. His silky whisper, you're beautiful. But I am not. I am something primal, something feline. In darkened corners, I see the birds -- our whispered stars, our blissful undoing, scurrying things, fleeting things. They cry in the night and we cry too. I move towards him and in one greedy breath, with one eager hand, I silence them.
Hours later, maybe days, we will wake to ribbons of melted wax, the room still except for breath. In those small morning seconds, everything is realized in stone. There is patched clothing in the closet, the dented radiators, the faded curtains, the cracks in the wall. Then there is the stink of the dumpster outside, only masked by lingering sex.
He sleeps with one eye open.