The air was one heavy sigh,
pleased, floral, musical breath. Clingy,
before that would’ve bothered me.
I’m wearing my eighth grade formal dress,
have discovered my body
populates it in entirely
new ways. I do not feel
bashful. I feel like I’ve emerged
from the other side of a war
breathless battered blood-smeared stunned
stunning gasping stained. Eyes look
different on the other side of a war. I look at myself
like a dare (I’ve never
dared before). My mother recognizes this
gaze, this calls for a celebration.
Santa Monica’s choir sings for us, down
the elevator, out into the street. The torches spit
flames, this calls for a sacrifice.
I look to her expectantly, but she quells
their eager flares with a glance, not yet.
Everything aglow in
pink neon and orange
trumpet honeysuckle, the men
pass by as we cross the street
like they have my whole life, but this time
they choose me instead. I don’t
know if she’s nervous or proud,
if I’m nervous or proud.
Her hand squeezes mine
deliberately, with saccharine.
At the restaurant we’re seated
by the window. Santa Monica,
open wound, spitting
and phosphorescent. Santa Monica,
florid whisperer. She orders a grey goose
martini with three olives, make it
very dirty (it will be
years before I suggest filthy
instead, she’ll love it). She orders
a dozen oysters on the half shell. I sip
the very dirty martini to try, and pretend to ignore
the oysters for as long as I can. I had always refused,
but I knew there’d be none of that
tonight. So she showed me how,
put the ancient thing
to the bloom of her lips, gently,
gently. Then I watched as she slurped
it down whole,
a wolf, a wolf, a wolf, slurped
its guts and veins and
vim, left a pool of primordial
plasma then slurped that too,
slurped its prismatic
pearl, slurped the shell,
the world’s oldest
fossil, and I watched it move
down her throat and disappear
forever. I knew it was my turn,
so I took it. Her hand let go of mine
deliberately, with strychnine.
I moved the next one to my mouth
carefully, like it held the last drops
of water in the desert. I cradled
and nursed it. I baptized
my lips in its vitreous
ooze and my lips were reborn. I felt
myself change. I felt myself named. I felt
myself found. I felt my pupils
turn pinprick in focus, and I swallowed
and swallowed and swallowed and
I don’t know how long it took to swallow
it all but I did. And when it was all gone,
the night humming an indigo conclusion,
I felt it inside of me, and it was a tiny, futile thing.
She gave me another and I finished in seconds,
another and another and another until the
platter was left lonely silver, licked bone-
clean while she ordered more.
I hadn’t known I was so hungry.