When I met my first lover, I was still a girl. I wore yellow ribbons in my hair and tramped through the creek bed until my feet were elephant skin. I saw him reading in the clover, a physics book like an extra hand. I danced and swayed, flying ribbons and slender limbs, but he would not look at me. All it took was a lock of his hair, swallowed with honey, before he chased me through the birch trees and rolled me through a bed of frost-spotted leaves.
My second was a pilot, and though my waist was thin and my chin tight and my laugh like the morning sun, she liked to disappear to Morocco and Marseilles and Madrid. She was not so easy as the first, so I ground our fingernails together with wormwood, pork legs, and garlic, and served her kaeng kradang. She locked the cockpit door, and kissed me against the flight display. Her mouth tasted bitter and sweet. After that, she was tethered to me like a kite.
I was older when I met my third, but my breasts were supple and high, and I was an expert rumpler of linen sheets. He was a writer, silver at the temples, with a soft, happy belly that overflowed his belt, more interested in his students than his peers. I went into Death Valley, slept in the open for six nights, and came back with the spines of a torch cactus. I ate each one. Then washed them down with the bile of ten sagebrush lizards. He abandoned his ingénues quickly enough then.
The fourth? I don’t know why she didn’t love me. We talked for hours, our foreheads touching. We dyed each other’s fading hair, shared coconut butter for our skin, and together, napped in the soft, fading light of the afternoon. But I found her one day with a young man who was rippled with muscles. He had jet black hair and a dimple on his thigh. I tore each page from her journal, choked down every single one with a touch of arsenic and gasoline, the whole time squeezing the corners of my eyes. She did come back, for a time.
And you, my love. I hope you will not make me go through this madness anymore. I promise that I will swallow nails for you. Poisons, potions, fire. I will lie down on the ice floes of Antarctica, naked and trembling, and let the wind beat me until my skin is the color of fresh salmon meat. I will flay my skin with a cat-o-nine tails and stuff the open tears with salt and lemon and death cap. I will murder my little sweet-eared dachshund and eat his heart, even though he follows me with such a big-eyed, panting look. That is how much I love you.
But please do not make me. Even though my voice is scratched and my hips pop and I have crow’s feet dancing around my eyes, please, please just love me back.
Chelsea Voulgares lives in Chicago, where she is working on a collection of short stories, and a comedic literary novel about romance, friendship, and the horrors of big business. Her work has appeared in Venus and Bust magazines, and online at Gaper’s Block. She has received professional development grants in literary arts from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Illinois Arts Council.
–Art by Karamelo
–Art by Mariya Petrova-Existencia