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A short story ~ eucalyptus mint candles, and other ways the body caresses the soul

I can't believe 2022 is about to end and the holidays are upon us already, but I just wanted to post a short story I wrote a while ago, and while I don't think it is my best work, I believe it fits the mood of self-reflection and simple joys this time of year brings :)

It's been a wild year for sure, but I'm looking forward to starting next year off strong.

Happy holidays, everyone.

I dip my head down through a cloud of incense,

leaning into the plasma, its waxen eyelashes flickering in a shy gesture as I exhale softly—so softly, the flame shivers. I enter a world where the clouds smell like cotton candy, the sky is another ocean, and the grass upon which I spread myself smells like eucalyptus. Like the succulent plant I managed to murder.

When I leave this world, I brace myself against colorful throw pillows. They support me, and I support them, even if matter is anything but solid. One is blue with tassels, and the fabric smells like the sea and lost memories.

Steam, this time lisping from a pastel blue mug with a chipped handle; it leaves a half-formed ring on the table when I bring the cup’s outer rim to my lips. The water steeped in dry leaves sends chords vibrating up and down the notches in my spine as flavor bursts into a melancholy verse.

This is simple love.

After blinking twice, the crust falls from my eyes, and the rain has subsided. If I press my hand to the window, it will feel like magic is passing through my palms. The sun will grace the horizon. When it does, I will fold into myself, sheltered in Nature’s repetitious reproductive cycle. If only dandelion wishes came true. I watch my sister chase after the cotton fluff, thinking of clouds. What would happen to us if we thought of all clouds as drifting fog and all rainbows as refracted light?

Tender, flaming, reminiscent.

The pages tickle my face as I bow in reverence to the home of words. Their pages flap like butterfly wings, but they are too thin to ride and too fragile to maneuver through fantastical words. I bury myself into the maze of their memories, tracing their lifelines—an old book smells like longing, dust, and quiet speculation. A new book is always daydreaming, always ambitious.

Obeying my ritual, I go through the processes until I know each paperback by heart. On a day when the weather overflows with sunlight, flowers recollect petals lost to early frosts. Rain is to roots as sky is to soul. On days such as these, I walk barefoot. I walk through muddy fields, pretending I will be the next one. I am becoming the next hero of this epic called Life.

I want the rhyme and meter of the forest, the temperament of the seas, and the staccato hum of approaching storms. I want the wiles of autocorrect, the hearts of scorned monsters, and the bravery of the heroes who slay them.

I don’t need to remind myself to breathe. Is this how time feels in their cave of solitude? Does the sun make them stall to begin another round?

A moment catches me unaware while listening to a Spotify playlist curated by strangers living in different countries, living a wildly different life, and loving the same music. When my mother plays music on the Bluetooth speaker (half of the time it works, half of the time it waits for a signal it cannot detect) and a song grips me; so, I sway. I remember that in such a small fraction of my life, happiness doesn’t have to be relative:

I love looking in the mirror and realizing just how fabulous I am.

The sound of my voice reverberates like strings on a viola when I know I have taken a stand and made my point. The skritch-skritch of my pencil on this draft, on this paper, is a crescendo that never reaches a maximum. Words grow until there is nothing left that can hold them.

The best time to get an idea is in the shower, the scalding water cascading down my back, sculpting me into the person of my dreams until the bubble pops. Then, I race against time to jot down my idea on the whiteboard in my room. I lost the eraser, both for the whiteboard and for my notebook. The rubber stood erect on my desk before my last outburst, like an empire before the war.

Nervous sweat, snot sleeves, breaking apart.

The best emotion is sadness interwoven with love. I remember the weight of my arms thrown around her middle, stroking her cold and wizened face; now, she is ash swept into ceremonious waters. Everything will be okay. I want to make her another collage; maybe I can recreate the one I made for her when she was in the hospital, ebbing and flowing before we learned how to smile through our tears.

Bodies are empires. They rise and fall, and eventually, our cells betray us.

On the bus ride to school, I dream of love, and he sleeps across from me. I turn to look at him, sometimes, whenever I can. Just the notion that if he falls, I will be the one to catch him in my arms—this satisfies me beyond what I know of his feelings. Crying while singing. Singing about crying. The process of healing is somewhat therapeutic.

Wool socks, aesthetic pens, winding thread.

I used to have a blanket with a small thread escaping from the stitched fabric. I was nine, so I tested it. I pulled it, tugged at it, and sucked on it. The thread became knotted into a small ball of sensory pleasure that I would rub between my thumb and forefinger every night.

The string sustained me on tear-stained, contemplative, and nervous-breakdown nights.

And, on the night it came loose between my fingers five years later, unraveling in the way indoor plants do, quietly fading—I cried. I cried and decided I would take destiny into my own hands the same way my nanu, my grandpa, took my palm in his and read the indecipherable message scrawled through lines and faint wrinkles.

Such is the timetable of youth. Measured, counted on stubby fingers, and graphed on elaborate charts. What does adulthood change in us? I’m not sure I want to find out.

Soft scarves, fluffy coats, autumn leaves, boba tea.

Cleanse me.


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