Alice quits her Ph.D. and makes a life list, eats non-active yeast like fish-food sprinkled on everything because it’s umami. Boulders and showers, and shoulders damp stands a breathing statue in the garden, looking in, inspecting grime and me moving in it under a collapsed ceiling.
Hello, she says hours later, and I scream.
Her black, green-tipped hair a fresh cold waterfall from nowhere and I imagine she has lungs larger from not breathing and holding it while she smokes. She dances and jiggles her restless legs. A kindred syndrome spirit, we’re filling seconds with running, scrambling, lunging, vaulting, somersaulting…. Dancing to the microwave boil milk, blowing cobwebs and fringes with our bottom lips from the forehead.
She probably has whole hopeful hands in all pies of life. I know how it feels. So I touch her shoulder by mistake for a reason, I forget which one. She flinches. And then she says she can do things with hoops in the sky like it’s an offer. Of course, she is scared but also stronger since she started, I should try it. Between us a tacky table and a single pane of glass, a window for climbing through, like a cat-flap, smeared with finger grease, rain and broccoli steam, perfect for girls with strong, grease-rimmed nails who don’t use doors.
I should try it, I echo with the pain of a bit of hard apple core stuck between two teeth like plastic, sweating when I think of falling. Of her poised and toes tipped reclining in lycra, starfish limbs, limberly threaded through a hoop in the sky.
Alice pickles rhubarb. She eats it for lunch on pita bread, lines up coriander and mustard seeds on the edge of her plate to keep out enemies, to keep in the sea of change or something. I pop them under my tongue where they taste of the smell of her bike as she cleans it, WD40 and freshly laid astroturf and Bristol sun.
She wants my nuclear coffee black. I don’t believe her.
How will she take it? I ask her twice through the window, she frowns the second time. She is sure she wants it how she wants it. I fill her cup up to the brim with bitter.
The next morning I leave and she’s sleeping in a room I’ve never seen or been in, breathing milk breath, dreaming of letting in the sea of change.
Charlotte Wührer is a Berlin-based writer and subtitler from the UK. She writes flash fiction, often on LGBT themes, and is working on a novella. In 2017 she was shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize. A list of her publications can be found here, and her tweets @charliewuehrer.