The smoke fills the underside of the bridge, and there is the sound of falling water. My brain is raw from earlier hours on the road, and I wear the miles like an invisible dress, the prettiest material no one can see. Attempting to be casual I sidle just a bit closer, my awkwardness more than the fire heats me, dispelling the autumn chill on my skin, scattering my thoughts like so many crimson and gold leaves in a blowing whirlwind. He is tall and beautiful and I never noticed until he took the time to ignore me.

Tonight feels like so many experiences from my peaking teenagehood, a time that I’ve recently shed like an itchy skin. All those nights of looking for proof of my existence at the bottom of a bottle, finding the meaning in the decalescent swirl of earthy smoke in my lungs, the religion of evading sleep until the shudder of half dreams enveloped me at the witching hour. Each weekend my former friends and I would gather and fail to fly, together breathing out the accumulated poison of relentless life like exhaust spewing from the tailpipe of my rusty car, each time pushing just far enough so that our minds would sizzle and all self-doubt would petrify like ancient wood and be shattered into inconsequential pieces.

I imagine the waterfall nearby is beautiful even though I can’t see it in the darkness beyond the reach of our fire. For so long I’ve wished for a longing like this, something to keep me up at night in the throes agitated wonderment, a self-depreciating philosopher. I strain, does he want to be near me? Silence from him, nothing, only the echo of his friends voices, fragmented conversation about antiheroes, ex-girlfriends, and university assignments they probably won’t ever be completed. From him there is only a profound apathy.

He doesn’t want me, but in the meantime, I’ve got the sound of invisible falls and his friend that makes me a genius by comparison, a miserly little consolation I clutch to. I want to stay forever. I want to leave immediately and begin assimilating this memory. I’ll commit it a prisoner, color it a shade that suits me, something in blonde or perhaps soft dark brown. Already, I have begun to engage my power of altering history in my favor, forcing microcosms of significance and erasing what wasn’t said in long broad brush strokes. The pain in my chest threatens to unfurl like an ugly flower, something spiny and purple like a bruise. But my mind is the best medicine I could ask for.

 

Anastasia Kirchoff studied Spanish studies and creative writing at the University of Wisconsin Superior. She has had one poem appear in the Nemadji Review, but otherwise is unpublished. After a post college stint of teaching English in South America, she has settled down in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, where she is procrastinating finishing her first novel by writing short fiction.

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