Jordaan Mason (fiction)

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The Power is Out, Sing

We spent the Sabbath in bathtubs trying to get clean and not spending any money. I decorated the walls of my bedroom with leftover tinfoil from lunches and when I walked to school I could hear change moving in my pocket against my thigh. I gave him thunder from under my shirt. He kept it, then, under his.

By diffusing the light bulbs in the attic we were able to forget our age, all of our identification lost in smells. The light from the window, the energy creeping in through the floorboards. And when we sat and looked through those boxes of who we used to be we were there again. And it was impossible to forget who we were before fucking, before reels of tape on the kitchen counter, hidden in the attic walls. Before all of the blood on the mattresses, tracing trails through the forests for me to find him with other men. In the house during the winter I could imagine different shadows against the wood, paint peeling from around the bathroom sink, all the rust in our mouths. The texture of her sandals falling away from her toes. By putting my tongue against it, I memorized the grain of phrases, the knots in the bark wrapped around our ankles. I sweat through the night thinking about the garden, all of the weeds pulled out with the daffodils, the hose left running into the grass. I kept these things inside of myself. I did not have a hiding place anywhere else. I knew everything with my sore stomach and that was enough for me.

The first time she took off all of her clothes for me was in her childhood room. Her father was just through the wall, snoring loud, a row of dolls nestled on a shelf all glaring at me, the swell purple of the room dampening my mouth. She wanted to ash herself away; I wanted to turn the lamp off. I never asked her to undress; she did it because she wanted to, because she needed a reason to fall asleep later, to heave, to pass, to be filled up with sound and semen.

I did not fill her with either that night, only air.

Him and I were ignorant of how to enter one another, so for a long time we were just naked, moving bodies, and eventually, come. When we finally achieved it he was seven hundred pounds of salt, I was many favorite bones. I wanted to erase table manners from our heads, to forget that we were two people. He swallowed what little I gave him. Before that all we did was tug. All that blood in us swarming so much we were weightless. It was an organic skill; lacked prowess but professed instantly.

We had these moments of violence, him and I, it was fine. He was a boy and I was a boy and that was what they called us in their language. As boys our real language then was war. Sometimes this resulted in a division of skin. We fought for skin mass instead of land. I claimed most of him then: torso, small of back, hind legs, earlobes, finger prints, thighs, hips, all of what stretched the skull under hair. Parts of him were harder to understand in terms of ownership since I knew they were shared. The difference between him and her was parts of the body represented through skin as organs which were not the same organs. His organs made sense to me because they were so similar to my own. With him and I it was apparent when one of us was unable to get through it; we were dried out. Nothing came out of us. This one thing we couldn’t keep secret. Our intestines would drag on the floor. We would stare at each other, naked and embarrassed, hot in the throat, sweating, emasculated. There were no apologies or discussions—just the truth of our own body. It was worse when only one of was able to achieve it—then the silence between us was strangling.

We made a house out of snow that we lived in for a while, the three of us but never all three at the same time. Sarah said she didn’t need heat. I prefer ice, she said. I held out my appendix in her general direction and asked her to set it on fire. I prefer fire, I said.

He dug a hole in the center of the snow house that he hid extra blankets in. In the spring, the house melted and all that was left in the yard were scarves and sticks, we moved back into yellow drywall rooms. The three of us but never all three at the same time.

I raised my hand in class to answer a question and my arm went numb for a little while. The question was: After mitosis, are the daughter cells capable of dividing again?

I slept in the attic while I waited for my arm to heal, tossing and turning most of the night. He crawled into the window with a ladder he had stolen, to check on me. He scratched my arm as hard as he could to try to wake it up. I only felt the pain of it days later.

The attic got wet because he left the window open accidentally and it rained. It leaked into my bedroom just below and ruined most of my books and magazines. Sarah helped me clean up the mess so my parent’s wouldn’t find out. I woke up shaking in the night, though, thinking that my lungs were filling up with mold.

The teacher said: Yes. And then went on to explain it further with a diagram that he drew on the chalkboard. The diagram looked exactly like our tree house somehow.

She jumped into the lake and I followed her. We rode our bicycles all afternoon and ate red rope licorice in the field behind the pine woods. Our clothes were wet since we had left them on. We were painted with dried brown grass and magnolia petals. She said she could not feel the energy when we were in the field; we were too far away from it. I kissed her on the cheek and said, but I am right here.

She accused me of not having enough electricity. She even fiercely avoided having me touch her, and if I tried to, she would fight me off. This is the only time she was openly angry with me, only a hint of violence, and this is when I finally wanted her. I took her, then, the way I took him.

We carried our illness around in jars, in pockets of our skin. They never told me directly that they had it, too. They didn’t have to—I saw it in them. I saw them eating yellow at night, scraping it from each other’s eyes, trying to recover the light texture in their teeth.

I woke up in the middle of the night, sweating like I thought that somehow the house was moving me closer to it. North. When he was in the bed with me, he would hold the flashlight to the sheets while we hid under them, and remind me that it was impossible for the house to move. He said: We are still.

He had navigated the woods long enough to know all the best spots. He liked being out in the open. He said: We’re sharing something bigger this way. This swaggering and swinging of these bodies between these briars with all the eyes of night watching. The sun closing its eyes, and mine tight, too. Picking ticks off of my legs after.

He brought a bag filled with wires and cords. I brought most of my dad’s magazines, which he hid in the wall of his closet with his other secrets. The magazines had photographs of girls in them mostly, but after a while of looking I couldn’t tell the difference anymore. All I saw in them was skin. It could have belonged to anybody.

I had an orgasm in the mouth of three hundred whales, which were all him, and which were all her. This is easy to describe if I use my hands to tell the story. In the story he is the whale that ate Geppetto and she is the whale that ate me. Both of them ate the rivers, the fires, the storms.

I was seasick once we got back to the shore. I blacked out. I woke up and they were both on one of the mattresses next to me, her with most of what he carried between his legs in her mouth, him biting down hard on a stick to keep quiet. I kept quiet, too. I located my own body attached to me and looked back up at the stars, interrupted by the branches of trees. One of them was the North Star. One of them was all of the fish we threw back into the lake. All of the stars were looking for me as if I could be found.

I passed out in the field singing a song about New Jersey. I told him I wanted to be Peter Pan. I told him I wanted us to keep fucking forever, that I wanted to be his mother, to cut his hair and call him in for supper. He was the first to throw up. His arms did it, too.

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by Jordaan Mason

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