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Little Fear | Janel Martinez

Little Fear

The beach is ninety-eight percent humidity so that plan is shot down. There are seventeen mile per hour winds that nobody wants to feel with sand mixed in. A huge chance of rain. Everyone gets a say; we all say no. We decide to have a party. Someone gets the amps set up and the live wire crackles, bursts, and catches the carpet on fire. We put it out without much effort, nobody gets dramatic.

Someone hands you a red cup full of warm coke with rum. I feel jealous of the rum because I want some. After the fire we put the TV on and watch the trees through the window swaying over the tops of the houses. One of them bare and brown, moving less than the others, We talk about why that one is taller. We talk about why you are taller. I talk about how I think being short makes it difficult for people to respect me, which is why I walk around feeling like a child all the time. I think about how it must be psychologically damaging if all people ever do is look down on you, and to have to constantly be looking up.

For you the impulse to make music is always there. The music is playing softly while you ignore me. I ask you to hold me decently, you hold me, I ask you to hold me, you say, I am, I say you’re not, I push you away, it feels inauthentic. We are in a place where it doesn’t count unless you initiate. You say you like it when every song is short. I like it too, there is a pattern there that doesn’t get distracted. I can forgive you for starting the fire.

We are on our way down to the shop. We walk in and see people holding their intestines in their hands. Look away. Nothing is discouraging. We walk up to the counter, order coffee, point and ask, is this okay? the person says yes, this is normal, don’t you see the glitter? It’s a performance. There is a sign on the wall that says this is a safe place. We nod and sit on the other side of the room. I ask you if you are cold, you say I was, but not anymore.

I am drawing a picture of wheat on the napkin, the little kid that just walked in with their mother is telling everyone their mother has no friends. It’s funny, and inspires the child to do a handstand. I see the hairless belly spilling out and want to kiss you. The clear skin of babies makes me ashamed of myself. I start to draw a little boat.

I tell you I want to be pure and that I never have been but will be. I drink a gallon of water and eat nothing but fruit. I don’t like to go run around the city with you because there are never enough bathrooms. My body is fast, I have to pee as soon as I take a drink. I leave my water at the table and go stare into the mirror for five minutes. You are still sitting there, acting like you did not just put down your phone, I don’t mind. I tell you that the mirror was backed with a gold frame, it made me feel dirty. I can’t go to the city with anyone without feeling dirty. I am aware of my clothes and split ends. I want to wear a sign around my neck that says, it’s okay, I am not a girl, I don’t have to look good.

You never get mad at me for not eating and I am thankful. The tiniest red bird got into the house and started flying around. We open the screen door and watch it panic. There is not much we can do. I wish I could turn myself into a bird and lead it out, or speak its language, to calm it down. There is nothing we can do. We watch it fly where it was not meant to fly and settle on top of the highest cupboard. What can we do? it doesn’t leave until the next day. I put the feathers it left in a cup.

I want to laugh so hard I burst. I try not to sound like myself but it never works. I want to laugh so hard I can’t breathe, so I go see you at work and you do a little dance. I try not to cry you are so perfect, even in your uniform and your frown. You see the film over my eyes that says not to ask, I know nothing is wrong with me when you smile. We arrange pastries in the way it says to on the chart.

We’re at the aquarium getting angry at the way people treat their children. We spend more time watching people than the ocean life. I make a joke about needing an epsom salt bath. You make a joke about how we’re acting salty. The jellyfish are hard to photograph. We are realizing we can be terrible people. All the pictures I take don’t come out. We spend too much money and go home grumpy. It sounds corny but we keep saying it: capitalism is crushing us, and the fish.

I don’t want to feel fear anymore so we make a plan to eat a good meal no matter what and take my fear to the ocean in a little pouch. We bury it in the sand and stay until the tide rises, uncovers it, and takes it away. I focus on the sky and you don’t touch me until the fear is gone. The car ride home feels shorter than the car ride there.

The next day you text me to ask how my day is going and after I say it is good, that I am happy, you sound so relieved that I realize I owe you this response more often instead of listing everything that is wrong. I decide to work harder on becoming a place you can rest. I am only beginning to realize that your concern is not a joke. When you say you love me, I equate it to a flaw in your character. I wonder why that is. I am realizing I need to start wondering that by myself instead of figuring it out on you.

About Janel Martinez

Janel Martinez is the poet/illustrator of Small Mountains (2013) & Too Much (2015). Their work has been featured in What Kind Of Trouble VII and Colour In Your Cheeks. Follow them on Tumblr and Twitter.

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