A Stellar Flare of Young Adult Writing and Visual Art
BY CLAIRE SEYMOUR
His name is Christian, which I guess is ironic because he fucks girls like it’s a sport and wears black t-shirts over his prominent rib cage every single day. He has shoulder-length yellow hair like a princess in a picture book and a voice like flannel shirts, dark wood shutters.
“Have you ever loved someone? Like really loved someone?”
“Um. Yeah I guess so. A while ago.”
Her name is Belle. She has pendulum eyes, round and swirling, a smile like cherry cough syrup, sticky sweet. She’s from Nebraska, a pretty little country girl, skin dyed pyramid gold from Midwest heat. Belle has a mother who flooded the basement so she could drown, a sister who found God in bottles of whiskey. Belle is damaged, which makes her all the more beautiful.
Christian loves damaged girls. He wants them to cry delicately into his shoulder so he can swipe the shivering tears off the ends of their lashes, curl over them like a wave cradling the sand. One time when we were playing chess on my front porch he told me about how he wanted to fix every woman he ever met, as if they were those red wind-up kangaroo toys that just have to be cranked before they go hopping off. I told him that was beautiful.
Every so often, when we’re together and I can tell he’s four million worlds away, thinking about Belle, I ask him, “Well why do you love her so much?”
Christian can’t say that he loves Belle because she’s beautiful and broken, even though that’s the truth, so he splutters and coughs when I ask him this.
I remember when Belle was in town a few years ago, when she joined us at this ratty bar in the West Village, flounced through the door with the slow melody of her velvet hair, the sleek lilt of her satin voice. I think I understand why boys get so hooked on her, because she’s a girl woven from music, a quiet mania buzzing beneath her skin.
Christian and Belle sat at two red stools in front of the bar, spinning their long-lost memories into the air from dusty yearbooks, reoccurring dreams. Christian ordered straight tequila and Belle ordered a can of coca cola because her older cousins taught her that pretty girls must always be well behaved. Christian hummed her love songs and Belle laughed her silky laugh and kissed him softly on the cheek. With Belle, there is room for soft things; soft bones, soft organs, soft kisses.
Now, Christian and I have been on the road for a few weeks, on our way to the rehabilitation center in California, a screwed up vacation that I always get roped into. We’ve been making our way through the Midwest, and today, we decide to visit Belle’s hometown. Every single person there remembers her, most of the men recalling that she was as beautiful as cocaine, a crystal oasis in a dried-up town.
“She was hot, man.”
“Screwed up in the head but I swear–”
“She had legs like Florida,” one of them says. “A voice like a slow waltz.”
All of these men are nice enough, wearing leather boots and smoking clove cigarettes through crinkled lips. I wonder why Belle thought she had to settle with these average men who have average dreams, when she could have Hercules, or someone who tipped over the sun for her, just so she could taste outer space.
They know her at the high school too, the psychologist mentioning that she had wilted in her senior year, skin rubbed off, bones hollowed out until her waist was the width of a quarter. Dr. James is in love with her too; I can tell by the way his eyes are caught up in the storm that is Belle’s past. I can see him return to the hazy dream that was her senior year, the frantic hum of her heart, and the willowy bend of her walk. I wonder if lust is really as powerful as all of his painkillers.
Christian first met Belle when they were eighteen, when she had just gotten off the train from Bellevue. She had eyes like a runaway dog’s, her voice broken china, and Christian was walking past Grand Central when she left the station, saw her porcelain doll skin in seconds, her hair long and flashing like a light.
I think something inside of Christian is wired towards damsels in distress, and when he saw her, he fell in love with her swollen Popsicle lips and bruised wrists, thin arms and snow queen skin, the eyes of an addict. She was clutching a wrinkled map with only a backpack slung over one shoulder and Christian swaggered on over like the hero he dreams of being, hands in his pockets, yellow hair tied back.
That was the only time she ever went home with him, her first night in New York City. They went back to Christian’s apartment in Williamsburg, and Belle was in awe when she looked around at the chalky brick walls, the white laundry billowing on the iron balcony like low-hanging clouds, the stack of blue ceramic plates he made at Painted Pot. There was no food in the fridge so they drank honey straight from the jar and did shots of cheap pharmacy store vodka sitting in his kitchen, in that pool of white light from the single bulb, like some sort of sign from God.
“She looked so beautiful.” Christian says. It’s six in the morning and we’ve driven halfway through Colorado, Christian is filling up his Camry’s tank while I drink watery coffee, slow and bleary-eyed. “I still remember what she was wearing. She was wearing blue jeans and this light green sweater.”
“And then you fucked her.” I interrupt.
“We didn’t fuck,” Christian retorts, taking a swig of his own coffee. “We made love.”
They fucked for a little while under his cotton sheets, her long hair dripping down her spine, body languid, mouth surprising, while he whispered sweet words over and over. They fell asleep after that, the room whirling, for Christian anyway, and when he woke up there was only the smell of her jasmine perfume clinging to his clothes and her number written on a pink post it note by his bed. He called her after that, but it wasn’t the same; she would only let him borrow her for short periods of time, only lending him sweet hugs and chaste kisses while he would always be wanting more.
When Christian and I drive past Utah and start making our way across Nevada, he tells me about his last kiss with Belle, the one before she went away to California. The windows are rolled down, endless highways and fields of limp grass, bending like wounded spines. His yellow hair is falling over his eyes, and when he talks about it, his voice sounds like it is unraveling, silk stitches coming loose.
Apparently it was late August, in Brooklyn. Past midnight, and everything was closed, the restaurants and bars sleepily packing up shop, windows boarded up and the streets thick and black, like swimming through tar. There was nowhere to go, so they sat in the middle of the street, full of drowsy blue blood and slow, piano bones, that the end of summer always brings. Christian was drunk off the tequila he had downed so he could be with Belle without crying, and Belle was drunk off the ripe, golden taste of autumn approaching, the promise of starting over again. Their hands managed to find each other through the shadows that drenched their skin, and Christian kissed her like it was the end of something.
“She was delicate,” he recalls, one hand lazily on the steering wheel, eyes peering down the stretched out highway. “When I held her face I thought she was going to break.”
“Belle was broken, Christian.” I say. I look at his glowing skin, jutting ribs. I wonder why you always want the people you can’t have. “That’s why you’re not together now.”
He frowns, feather blonde eyebrows drawing in. “I love her. I loved her.”
“You can’t fix everybody.” I remind him. “Belle wasn’t some injury you could just stitch up. You know that right?”
Christian looks at me, disgusted, and a house of cards inside my chest collapses.
“You’ve always been jealous of her.” Christian says. His yellow hair looks brown in the dusty light and all of a sudden I flashed forward ten years. Christian will not be beautiful anymore, his skin full of moth holes, hard lips, metal tongue. He won’t be able to handle his moist, crumbling insides, and so he’ll kiss girl after girl, trying to find one who tastes exactly like Belle.
“Why do we keep driving to California, Christian?” I demand. Outside, the landscape whirls by. “She’s been in rehab for a few years now. Maybe it’s too late. Maybe some people just can’t be saved.”
That night, we get to Nevada. We park in a highway motel lot and spread a picnic blanket across the top of his Camry, smoking herb-filled cigarillos through dry west-coast lips. The night is clear, stars like flyaway white balloons, and we talk for hours. I look at Christian, at the nicotine laced on his tongue, the smooth arch of his voice. I wonder why I love Christian, why Christian loves Belle. I wonder who Belle loves, who she’s thinking about in California, sitting in a white-washed room with the sun swiped from her hair and the stars stolen from her breath, counting down the days until she can go back to wherever the hell she belongs.
Claire Seymour is a senior in high school in Brooklyn, New York. She attends the Packer Collegiate Institute. Her writing has appeared in Thistle Magazine and Hypertext Magazine as well as Hypernova Lit previously, and has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.