I am playing with marbles again.
They roll over in my hands, cut of clear glass. They clack against each other. I wince. I do not like the noise.
My ears hurt.
My fingers itch. I want to write again. I want to sink my teeth into something raw and unbitten. I want to swallow blood. I want to cry.
I dream of this: leaning too far out the apartment window. Labored breathing. My childhood bedroom, stripped bare of belongings and coated in a thick layer of dust. I wake up gasping, caught between this world and the one inside my head. I dig my fingernails into my scalp like I can scoop out the fear that knocks around the inside of my cranium.
I open my eyes. I am not dreaming. I pinch a marble between my thumb and index finger and slip it into my mouth and tuck it under my tongue. My throat tightens. If I swallowed, perhaps I would choke.
I dream of this: feet dragging through viscous mud. Wind ripping through the knots of my hair. A scream, snagged on the edge of my sternum.
I spit the marble out and roll it under the bed. It’s been dirtied. I shouldn’t play with it again.
I dream of this: falling.
And dreams are like wishes. Fickle, fleeting things. Little white birds that I keep caged in my chest, beating their wings in flurries against my ribs, nestling against my heart and between my lungs.
Sometimes I open my mouth and they burst forth and are picked up by the breeze and swept away. Feathers stick between my teeth. I heave for breath. I come up empty.
I keep my mouth shut.
Marbles spill out of my cupped palms and onto the floor.
I close my eyes, and printed over the backs of my eyelids is the image of myself, broken and splayed across concrete.
Art by Michelle Dong