We run up Montrose Drive, all the way to La Granada. A Korean Church upon the corner; someone with an orange tree in their yard. The streetlights flicker on our skin—yellow, waxy. I can see the sweat on his Miami Dolphins t shirt, and on his upper lip.
We pick oranges.
Don’t move, he says. Pulls a twig from my unkempt hair and drops it. It falls upon the ground and lives there on the sidewalk. With no sound, like a word inside an empty book the story that it tells. He watches it. Waits for it to move. I shrug and turn toward the tree. Give me a boost.
I can still see it, the twig. The orange. The sweat on his upper lip. I wonder which goes first: the memory of sound or sight.
Take the dark way back?
I nod. Sure.
That way we can run inside of the pitch black. His mind’s already there, and so I think it feels familiar for him. Comfortable. Last week we stole a street sign, and he sat out on the roof until the dawn.
One day he starts to run and never stops. He runs so that his bones scream through his skin, both in the day and in the night—sometimes even in the times between.
We still pick oranges, though they are always just a touch too firm. Sometimes we choke on them and spit them out into the street. Sometimes they are good, but we spit them out anyway because we’re angry.
On the corner, across from the Korean Church, we sit upon the sidewalk, stretching out our legs into the street. I can smell the sweat on his Miami Dolphins t shirt. We throw the orange peels in the road—we do not care. Beneath the streetlights, everything is sepia. I pass him the cigarette and file my nails along the asphalt.
You slobbered all over it again. I shrug.
All he ever eats is oranges, and so his jawline etched in smoke looks thin like saran wrap stretched over the lip of a porcelain bowl. He used to have faith in my golden hair and then I cut it and then it wasn’t enough for him. His heartbeats turned to tantrums; every breath became a sure and certain protest of his life.
We used to stand beneath the streetlight, right at the point where yellow turns to black, divides our bodies up into a perfect split. Sometimes he would step all the way out into the dark and place a single hand back to the light. And then one day he didn’t.
I wonder which goes first: the memory of sound or sight.