2010 Runner-up: Becoming by Ayesha Drury

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Ayesha Drury is a runner-up in the 2010 Litro & IGGY International Short Story Award for Young Writers.

she /

so. truth will out. in the silence that is eyes and the taste of the rain, the truth will out. in the pictures you see when you close your eyes… i can’t i can’t i can’t shake the image of you (close range. blue eyes. pedantry. but you wouldn’t hold my stare long enough for me to read your mind, last time, and we are strangers now), although now is infinity and the nights are like flying and i have become –

there are some moments, some breaths, that i am filled with and created by, that i hold in the heart of my longing, that i find in the creases of my skin and –

i am searching for something new to say.

this is a story formed blindly, slowly. haltingly. this is a story like the feel of you-and-i, and when the light in your eyes lights up the sky and the morning comes, maybe we will have

learnt something. maybe.

these words these words these words taste of alone. of too much coffee, ink-stained fingers, a penchant for D. H. Lawrence and too many days spent staring at the clouds, sky-high

on words, on longing. echoing in silence and discovering that

although lionhearted now, the truth doesn’t come so easy.

bullSHIT, you say, crumpling my ideas in your left hand, nicotine-stained fingers rasping against the nihilism that chokes us, that holds us down.

casting me aside you reach for moremoreMORE and fail to see-

anything.

i’m dreaming of screaming. of kittens clawing my thighs. and of red light stencils, someone else’s face, dark against darker. it’s not his voice i hear playing i-spy blindfold, and it’s

not his music that flows inside me, on the nights when the floors are sticky the bass is loud and only the press of other bodies keeps you upright.

i want to bleed the words from time and place – i can barely taste my own thoughts but this tangle of bones music muscle memories and hope that i am is dying every second and

now i am electric. i have swallowed the greenness of the edges of the sky – i’m all nerve endings, claustrophobia, solipsism. need eye-contact, skin-contact, night-contact.

there’s a feeling – there’s a falling – i have tasted – i am chasing. burning moments crystallized – behind my broken eyes. the sky shatters and i reappear. in old words, new words,

this lust for forgetting – an ache to be consumed – as i strain towards the dark –

//

A boy and a girl stand together on the platform. Neither speak. They watch the rain as it falls steadily around them, bouncing off the track. Everything is grey. They both sway

slightly, and they both look tired. As tinny music fills their silence, the girl’s face crumples and she turns, pretends to check the time, and hugs herself tighter. The boy’s face is stony,

he frowns at the ground, only occasionally looking in the girl’s direction. The voice over the loudspeaker announces the imminent arrival of a train to platform 2. The girl steps towards

the boy and, without looking at him, puts her arm round his waist and leans her head on his chest. He puts an arm round her shoulders and leans his head on hers. She starts to cry,

quietly, a handful of his t-shirt bunched in her fist. are you okay? He asks her. She nods, tries to smile up at him. The train pulls into the station, and he steps away, picks up her bag,

and hands it to her. They hug, briefly. see you, he says. she nods, yeah, bye. they smile, looking straight at each other now. The girl turns and walks onto the train.

he/

her eyes are wild. all kinds of suns are shining on her. the whispers that pour from her chapped lips at night are darkness threaded with gold, are the green fragments of nightmares, and are all that hold me here, some nights.

she drinks black coffee with five sugars. she sleeps curled tightly around herself. she traces patterns on my skin with the tips of her fingers – suns, stickmen, the letters of my name – and she plays with fire. her cheeks are smudged with ash.

she’s leaving.

leaving by the next train. this morning she woke up with a new light in her eyes, a light that struck my core and left me speechless, shell-shocked, shaking. there’s been a desperation in the air for the last few days, a tension that hints of thunderstorms and change. and today the clouds birthed rain to see her out.

so i have wrapped myself in cynicism to shield from the shock, i have bathed my eyes in stone and i will not look at her, not at her hands that hold me calm and still, not at her mouth that tastes the sky and smiles. not at her eyes that tell the truths of the universe. not at her eyes.  i will not forget. i have absorbed a corner of the soul of her and i will find the truth of her in everything, because that is how it works.

a kind of peace is found in desperation – a kind of calm in despair. the roaring in the air around me will quieten, the flames licking at my feet will burn themselves out, and i will find a new way to see the world.

//

As the train pulls away and the girl sinks into a window seat, a kind of calm fills her body. She presses her palms and mouth to the window and breathes a cloud of mist onto the pane. She kisses the cloud, smiles at the print her lips left, and pulls a tattered paperback out of her bag.

As the train pulls away the boy lights a cigarette with shaking fingers, inhales deeply and turns his face to the sky. A swallow skims the airwaves, dipping and rising with the currents that hold us all together. An infinity opens in his mind and he smiles gently, rubbing the ash from his cigarette between his finger and thumb.

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