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Spectrum by Marianna Kouznetsov, Long Road Sixth Form College

February 2022

She has grey eyes, although she insists that they’re blue.

You point out the different shades of blue, layered from weak pastels nearer the horizon to where they slip upwards into darker navy, so rich it’s almost purple, and then: just black. You tell me about something you learned in Physics, back when you paid attention. I can only watch as the sky starts to sink into itself. Almost imperceptible, but then it’s sinking, like quicksand, everything pulled downwards into a terrible spiral, a mountain range suddenly circling a storm drain. Sinking down into blistering blacks, everything eroding, clouds moving in, sunlight knifing between them in quick thrusts, and I want to take you by the cheekbones and hold them, and I can’t. The day’s end looks like this: inching on our backsides down a wet hill, and I’m far behind you as we run back to the car, straining to follow your outline in the dark.

The light has returned when I wake, like nothing happened at all. You take me to the beach, and I don’t have ribs anymore, breathing so deeply I’m made of just that. Dipping in the surf, mirth dripping from your mouth, tripping on the rock and the earthy rain-soak, watching as the smoke makes your eyes roll back. In this light, maybe they’re blue after all.

Two nights we stay in the city, and you tell me exactly what to do. My heart jackrabbits at every look, every held breath, every time you beckon me to come here. This is it. This is it. This is it. I’m fumbling around in the dark, trying to grasp onto something, my fingers catching on something warm. I’ll keep pretending it’s something that it’s not. I’m here, come find me. Making me chase you down the street, pulling away as soon as my hands close around your shoulders. I forget, sometimes, what you keep claiming to hate. There’s a restaurant on the corner, but to me, it’s just a room. You say I can have anything I like, but I end up not having anything at all.

Lights off, you say, and the lights go off. Your eyes have greyed, now. Maybe your hair has, too. Hurried breaths as we change in thickening silence, and suddenly I’m back there, surrounded by the four walls of the cubicle, protecting me as I squirm and shuffle into clothes that don’t feel like mine, digging my nails into my palms and squaring my shoulders before I walk out to face all the rest of them. Promise you won’t look; promise you’ll keep your back turned.

I keep your promises. I keep my mouth shut, and I keep my back turned. I already know who you are.