From The Collective series
Collective.aporia is proud to present our From The Collective series, where members of the collective share their work and the inspiration, process, or story of how their piece came to be. This series will be accompanied by our video series Behind The Writing.
The wind blows around you, tucking tighter to your only coat, the only thing protecting you from the elements and everyone else. The sky grays sometime in early October, though it’s hard to tell time anymore. No watch, no calendar—sometimes you ask gas station attendants what’s the time, what’s the date. Time really has no measure any longer, it’s just a notch on some wall. During the breezy months before the snow you spend as much time outside as possible, stuck in your parka both to get used to the wrapping warmth and used to the cold that dries your lips.
You can’t suck on them, you can’t lick them, it’ll get worse. One spring you had a whole mouth flecked in white, spreading across your cheek and down your chin. You were fourteen and everyone was convinced you had somehow contracted herpes of the mouth. You spread petroleum jelly on the dryness and by the fall, it was gone. It hasn’t been a problem since, but you aren’t taking chances. There isn’t a thing in the world that has a zero chance of coming back.
Tenth street smells like Halloween smoke, almost like firework smoke with its faint bite in the air, but a little heavier, a little sweeter. Fog machines and burning jack-o-lanterns.
You know the roads along here, it’s hard not to count once you know how. Down by a schoolyard, there are swinging tetherballs and swaying monkey bars. It’s an hour before sundown. You know the place where children hide. A boy huddles underneath the yellow slide, knees up to his chest, brown hair dirty with red leaves and white twigs. Because you and he wear a green parka, you feel some pity for him, crying underneath the playground slide with no one near.
The way the metal clangs in the breeze, the steady crying of the child near you, it coalesces into a rhythm that strikes right in the hips. Bemused, you follow the urge, swinging them and stamping your feet. The boy peers in your direction, alerted by rubber slapping on concrete. You raise your arms to the clouds in the sky and scream. Your wail rips your throat and the sky, carving a black stripe down the middle where you can see the stars and the lines that meet their constellations together. Ursa Major, Draco, Cygnus, Orion all look down at your dance and the boy crawling out from underneath the slide.
He stands near you on the other side of a chain link fence and lifts his arms like you do, carving through the wind in angular poses. When he screams, it’s an octave higher, harmonizing dissonant sharp against your voice. It’s weak and breathy, but the way he keeps screaming through the hiccups of vocal chords smashing against each other says all you need to know.
Across the road, along the new sealed blacktop of the street, a crowd of people stand at the crosswalk. The lights flash for them to move, but they do not. Whatever people they are, they are a mix of ages, sizes, and emotions. Anger, delight, cruelty, pride, all mix into a group identity, the desire to torture and see the target overcome.
Both his and your eyes are on them, watching you spin and press your feet to the ground in wild patterns. The group begins to dissipate with each of your stomps, one person at a time, walking down the opposite streets, into alleyways and across lawns toward the sunsetting.
This dance continues until the street lamps switch on, silhouetting your shapes on the grass. The boy stops and stares at the last figure on the corner, the same size as he. You spin, your head whirling and your eyes goggling around your skull. Once your vision focuses, you step toward the figure on the corner and the shape dissipates into the dark.
You hook your head up, staring at the stars. Whether or not the boy can share the rest of this experience doesn’t matter anymore. He has been born and will do what he needs to do now that he has shed the umbilical cord. What’s hung in the sky only reflects your face.
Behind The Writing
Head to our Instagram or Twitter to watch Collective.aporia member and author H. P. Armstrong talks about their inspiration behind Maenad Weather and the story of how the piece came to be.
H. P. ARMSTRONG (he/they) is a writer from the Chicagoland area. He has a BA from the Jack Kerouac School. His work has appeared in KYSO Flash, Punch Drunk Press, Plains Paradox, and worldwide with Nota Bene. H. P. cares a lot about trans poetics, horror, and divinity--he is currently working on his first novel about the intersection of those three. Currently he lives in Colorado with his partner and mother in law, working for a community college as administration staff.
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