by Priya Ele

You smoke in bed, across duvet covers littered with folds and follicles and some sort of prophecy maybe. There’s a crumb close to where you lay the edge of your hand, something sticky and serrated. There’s a haunting, a story to be told, against the smoke you taste. It’s a cigarette but you think it tastes like a memory, the back of a bus, broken over polyester seats, the person you used to be and the person you used to recognize in the mirror. Sometimes when I tell you things you know I feel like you’re relearning something, like the words sound different off my lips, crinkling bells and crumpled paper. We bought this motel room because we’re running from something but neither of us know what. We bought this motel room because we’re probably not in love but both of us are desperate to pry open that probably, scalp it, rip its syllables into fragments and cigarette smoke and breadcrumbs. I tell you not to smoke in here, that I don’t want to get fined, and you just look at me. I tell you that I’m sorry, that I can deal with a fine if you can, and that if you feel calm I just want you to keep feeling calm, you just smooth ash out of the ridges of your hand. I tell you that one day all of this is going to catch up with both of us and we’re both going to keep hurting if we don’t stop and we’re on some collision course, we’re fixed points, a meteor is coming and my collarbones is its place of impact and there’s a bomb under your fingernails aching for detonation and I’m not in love with you, I know that now, and you laugh. Or that’s not actually what I say, that’s just what you imagine I’m thinking. And maybe you’re right and maybe I’m not but in this motel room with the cigarette smoke baking against the wallpaper neither of us are going to get to know each other any better. You put the cigarette out but you leave a smear of ash on the pillowcase. You’ve left a smear of a bruise on the side of my neck. I imagine it peppery and hot and burning, somewhere for you to flick fire. You’re thinking that you want me to do something, anything, tell the truth, and I’m thinking that I need you to do that, because you look too much like a cavern plastered on the white linen, too much of a living portrait, and you’re thinking back that I’m being stupid and dramatic and we’re both just a boy and girl and none of us belong in any paintings or pieces and poems and I move to you but not to touch you. You watch me clear the stain. You watch me breathe in the smoke. You think that if this is it you could die happy in it and I think that there has to be better than this and this can’t be it and this can’t be love.

Priya Ele is a New York based writer. She studies dramatic writing at New York University and has work in HAD, Rejection Letters, and Maudlin House among others. You can find her on twitter @priyaeler.


Photography by: Katarzyna Urbanek