To Dissolve or Disappear
Alyssa Zhang | Art by Irene Han
She was fascinated by the puddle that collected around her forearm, lazily spreading its fingers with the thrusting of her shoulders. An accidental prick of sewing scissors dug too deep, unleashing a soft dribble of blood. She did it again, again, moving up towards her neck. It trickled slowly down her elbow and into the crevices of her fingernails. There was a nostalgic beauty to it, and for the first time in her uneventful life, she became art.
It didn’t make sense to be jolted by the wailing of her mother, the egging ambulance as they urged her to go, go, go. The nurse’s brown eyes told her never to do such a thing again, for heaven’s sake. Her father skipped work and pleaded, teary-eyed, for her to talk to him if there ever was anything wrong at school.
But nothing was wrong. She had liked it. It was pretty and it didn’t hurt.
To her, blood was meant to flow; it didn’t matter whether inside or out.
“What are you doing?” Candice asked with perky glasses and smile askew.
“I am going south,” she said. “The birds told me to follow the path until I reach the purple light.”
“Why are you going south?” Candice asked.
“I want to disappear,” she said.
“Why, silly Aderyn, you don’t need to go south. All you need to do is dissolve.”
“Is it really that easy?”
“Of course. Your body is made of water. Water spreads around the grass. Have you ever seen water that didn’t spread around in the grass? Nope.”
“I guess you’re right. Can you teach me how to dissolve?”
Candice brushed aside a purple strand of hair from her eyes and fixated on what she needed to work with. With a resigned sigh, Candice took her by the forearm and led her to the soccer field.
Aderyn was at the billowing age of seventeen, hand casually draped on the handle of adulthood. Her mother anxiously watched as she stepped into the car with Patrick, her date to Winter Formal. But she wasn’t worried about what he thought at all.
Their relationship had been one of relaxing camaraderie. He told a friend of his interest, and she had responded positively. Now, there were benefits of an occasional flower on a disappointing day at school or a quick embrace before her tennis games.
“How’s your day been? Mom’s dinner as great as usual?” he asked, polished steering wheel reflecting his murky brown eyes.
“Mhm. Amazing. You?” She pecked at him quickly as he revved up the engine, a deepening crescendo that stilted swirling feathers.
“Great. By the way, you look beautiful in your dress.”
He said the right things, she wore the right things. It all made perfect sense.
They entered the gym, their hearts full of blinding red and blue dance lights. Like the rest, she took to the steadiness of his arms bound under the starch of his brown suit. A pause in music urged her outside of the sweat-infested dance floor. She excused herself with an apology and promise to return.
Outside, the moon pushed its gaze through the violet night sky, and she suddenly felt the urgent need to join it. But she had not wandered far enough up the hills before Candice appeared on the lawn before her.
What was this sudden uptake in her body’s clock, winding around so many days and nights until she had been standing with Candice for years, decades, centuries…
“Why did you disappear?” she asked.
“I followed the birds to the purple light,” Candice replied.
“But I dissolved!” she replied. “Why did you leave me to dissolve alone?”
Candice stared at her with a question. “I’m sorry,” she answered, but the question wouldn’t go away.
She stood at the edge of the grass, the barrier between Candice’s and the world she had dissolved in. That summer when Candice had taught her to dissolve, they’d collected bows together, taking turns binding each other’s hair with foreign ribbons. Candice taught her to stay away from scissors, explaining to her that they were used to clip birds’ wings, and would she like her wings to be clipped off too?
But the Candice in front of her smelled of Sunday afternoons hand in hand reading comic strips and Proust. They would sip warm milk from Warhol cups, arms loosely linked and glistening under red suns, all of which had previously been part of a dream.
She stepped onto the lawn, smiling, knowing that she was not alone in wanting to disappear.
And as she came closer and closer, forearms against Candice’s, her heart beating to the tune of a long forgotten memory, shedding her purple skins under the purple dress on the cracked grass, her lips knew her lips, her eyes knew her eyes, and as one they knew
Blood was meant to flow; it didn’t matter whether inside or out.