by Kim Steele
Cory’s skin freckles in the sun. One day he will have so many more than he has now. I worry that I won’t know him then. I worry that he will die and be burned or buried and I will have been absent so long I will no longer know how they occupy his skin.
‘Maybe everybody is born with a specific number of freckles already written in their DNA. Maybe you’ll reach your limit one day and that will be that. No more freckles.’ I drag my nail along his arm and tick them off one by one. He shivers.
We are travelling on an overnight bus from Arequipa to Lima. I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve left something behind in the hostel and keep shifting through the things in my backpack waiting to remember. Finally Cory moves my bag under his seat. ‘Whatever it was it doesn’t matter now,’ he says and reaches for my hand.
In the darkness I can’t see anything but our reflection in the windows of the bus. For a while I watch the woman in front of me rock her toddler to sleep. He fights it and opens his eyes each time they droop shut. When he is finally sleeping his mother moves him to the seat next to her and puts on headphones. She falls asleep quickly, her head vibrating gently against the window.
I watch myself watch Cory who is reading.
‘We might as well be in Chicago,’ I say.
‘How do you mean?’ he asks.
‘We could be on the red line. I’m sitting here watching you read just like always.’
Cory murmurs something and nods his head.
‘Why travel I guess, is what I am thinking,’ I say.
Cory chuckles but doesn’t look up.
‘My reflection is pretty beautiful you know,’ I say.
He meets my eyes in the window. ‘OK Narcissus.’
I take a Dramamine and lean back in my chair. The bus stops for gas just after one in the morning and a woman comes on with a basket of water bottles and Inca Kola. Cory buys us one of each. I hold the warm bottle of soda in between my thighs. I don’t like the taste but I want to and so we’ve been buying them all week.
‘It’s a shame that things will be different,’ I say.
‘They could be better,’ he says and bites into one of the apples we packed.
I nod. ‘Eventually maybe. In the short term I’ll get fat and then I’ll be tired. We’ll both be so tired.’
Cory passes the apple to me. I watch myself bite in the window. I realize I am hungry.
‘I think we are too close to the ocean. I think it is just there, just right outside the window. We are on a cliff and if the driver wanted to he could drive us right off into the water.’
‘A spectacular way to die,’ he says.
‘I’d be OK with it,’ I say.
Cory watches my reflection.
– Kim Steele is from the Midwest but currently lives in Los Angeles. You can follow her on Twitter @KJ_Steele.