By SARAH WU
TW: mention of suicidal thoughts
On the same bridge where my brother threatened to cast his body into the river, you tell me: “Wouldn’t it be fun to jump?”
We sit together on the railing. Your eyes are the same color as the sky; only, the sky today is overcast and has turned your gaze colorless and sharp, the shade of glass. Your blonde curls flutter backward as a breath of breeze is released against your forehead; against the glittering water beneath us, you are someone painted into the world, each stroke a careful idea.
I am a moth in your presence, burning in your audacity. I think: there is nothing stopping you from pressing your warm hands against my chest; there is nothing stopping you from pushing me off the bridge, and already, I have imagined the act, the way my body will concave across the skies, the brutal exhale of flesh meeting water, a slap of pain, bubbles streaming from my consciousness.
I ask, “Aren’t you afraid of death?” and the corners of your lips peel into a grin. Your pale blue eyes crinkle into a smile, and I think: this is the type of smile that my brother wished for but could never have.
“Isn’t fearing death the most exciting way to live?” you answer, and my responses border on unacceptable:
- “Are you high?” &
- “How would you know what the most exciting way to live is?” &
- “What if I consumed you?”
because the way your smile curls from your chapped lips looks delicious enough that I could swallow you whole, press your blue smile against my slavering throat, pulsing with desire; I want to suck the freedom from your lips, your teeth; I want to live life the way a white man fears death—
because when I stare at you, you are the ideal image that my brother had desired. It was only a few years ago that my brother threatened me with his body; in a fit of passion, he gnashed his teeth together and whispered, “If you take one step forward, I will throw myself off.” That night had dripped heavy with darkness, slipping sleep underneath my eyelids, and I remember the unfamiliar shadows creasing my brother’s face: they made him look tired and small and old.
I swallow, and the bitter taste of spit rolls down; I ask: “When did you like philosophy?” and you laugh too. Below us, the water sways past the bridge, and it gurgles with the cheeriness absent from my throat.
We lock eyes. The mischievous smile on your face only widens. You smile like the world has been carved out just for you. “If you believe hard enough, you can be whatever you want to be,” you say, and your eyes are so sharp, so bright. “You can even grow feathers and fly.”
You look at me for approval, but I say nothing. I am silent because I certainly cannot tell you how my brother tried to believe, and that’s when you lift your arms to the sky like a prayer. Your eyes are triumphant. You tilt forward and fall
and instinct turns you into my brother, tumbling;
I lurch forward
& suddenly, it’s a high school night again. It is 4 AM, and my brother and I are supposed to be asleep, but I see the light bleeding from underneath my brother’s door and my curiosity itches so I tiptoe to his room. I peek in, and he is staring at a mirror and the look on his face is curiously cool, like a plastic surgeon dissecting his face: curling the straightness of his black hair, smoothing the sharpness of his eyes.
& on a Friday in middle school, he storms into the kitchen and grabs the scissors on the counter. The blades flash silver against the setting sunlight, so when he is finished, a thin fuzz of black dusts the marbled table; when I meet his dark eyes, a hint of terrible glee peers back, and I see the ridges and gorges left in his hair. The fringes look like ragged edges of blackened teeth, a rotting grimace, but before I can say anything, he has already disappeared.
& before the elementary-school bus arrives, another child presses her fingers to the corners of her eyes; my brother doesn’t turn his face away quickly enough and the reflection of my pale face reflects against the tears on his cheeks. When the bus splutters to a stop, my brother shoves through the line of students and tears them apart; I reach out too late, and my brother enters the bus, alone
& before he grew ashamed and angry and apathetic, he was a child who believed that he too, could look white.
And isn’t there something painfully ironic that you are granted the indulgence to jump, but when my brother threatens to jump, he desires to gash his body against the swirling chaos of the waters? I drag him back because of my duty as a sister & not because I particularly care, at least, not at that moment, because I am tired and it is 3 AM and neither of us is supposed to be awake & anyways, the bridge is low enough to risk just a broken bone & I remember thinking: perhaps if I had no younger brother, I would have my six hours of sleep & perhaps I would pass my history test tomorrow. Perhaps I would be happier.
When my brother cries, he cries alone against the rotting arms of the bridge; he is tired, tired from believing too hard. I stand on the opposite side of the bridge and I refuse to look at him because I too am tired of being a sister—
but when you jump, you see none of this.
My hands skin themselves bloody against the railing. When you finally resurface, wet curls smeared against your forehead, you are laughing, bright and loud, and when I meet your gaze, I am once again a moth disintegrating desperately against the envy of your freedom. I helplessly drift closer, the taste of desire sweet-sour against my lips, my palms throbbing.