The Renewal of a Life

Design by Helen Huynh

I turned 19 years old today. The sun is big and it’s grinning at me. People smile more on a sunny day. They walk slower and welcome you into their arms with a certain affinity and ease, greeting you with a flimsy hello, because there’s nothing like a leisurely, vapid day that jolts people alive. Their gleam makes me more conscious of myself; their convivial teeth force me back into my body. 

I wake up and there are pictures of me everywhere. People cup my face in their palms. They hold me loosely and I exist in between their thumbs. They print my name with their fingertips. It echoes from their mouths into the air and dances on their tongues. There are texts from familiar faces, from people in passing, and from my mother. There are other names too, the ones from a past life: the estranged, the outgrown, the dead. I am reminded of them especially today—of their ephemerality. All the glory of birth fades into a distant hullabaloo that never quite reaches me. 

Someone I knew died last night. 

The sounds of a name and the photos of a face make me curl into myself. Truthfully, I am not certain if we were ever made to look at ourselves. Our reflections are nauseating. The presence of contradiction in a mirror is enough to make the entire human race ill. There’s a displeasing tint to my skin, sunkenness to my eyes, and distance to my stare that makes me look wild. There lies the discomfort: a pair of sloped shoulders and a soft stomach, a set of flat nostrils and oval lips, of something fixed. There lies the discomfort: the familiarity of a body and its years, the familiarity of a stench and its relentless proximity. There lies the stillness. I chew through two calcium carbonate tablets to make it to nightfall. 

The sun sinks away. I choke and hesitate on spirits, and the entire world jumbles and shakes into a mirage. I am angry with the moon for dying in the morning, with the wind for shaking the leaves dead, at myself for falling in love with a person, and for letting the idea of falling in love split my heart open. I am angry with the rapid slowness and the dull speed of a singular day. Nineteen years of evenings and on this one, I am a drunken fool stumbling under quiet incandescence. I am dizzy eating greasy pizza in the backseat of a Prius. 

I end the night in an auditorium, where crimson smoke diffuses and sheds itself into a violently crisp air. The lights beam, springing about with no intention. I stare at this temporal visage; an eerie and roaring phantasia that I’ll forget about in the morning. The sound barely reaches me, at least not loud enough to conceal my sobs. I lay my head on the chest of a distant friend, crying into her red curls. Her arms wrap around me and she kisses my forehead. I mourn the loss of a life. 

The swaying flashlights look like stars. I grieve their death. 

Leave a Reply