Inventing Words by Jessica Evans

I need a word for standing still. Something to remind me of the way longing pushes me forward. Prop. Short for propeller, your nickname for me. I prop you up the way you’re supposed to push me forward. I imagine myself with rotating wings or as a vessel that moves through water. We never talk about my sharp edges, my ability to cut and sever. Your blood on my blades, or my own. Who’s to say?

We met on a Dickens day, March cold and warm at once, an omen. I was relearning how to move and you were learning how to stand tall. I think of you when I’m moving through the rain, my feet making small explosions when my shoes hit puddles. Close trajectory, flawless shots, execution. Rain running is fast the way love should be slow. I wonder if you think of me when you’re strapping on your patrol belt, clipping that service issue revolver in place.

You vowed I’d recover, revive, renew. Easy spring words that have less regrowth as the sun moves toward solstice. This year, the rains kept coming. I dodge droplets to remember that you love me. It’s tiresome.

At the corner of my street, where the old-lady beauty parlor still sets tight curl styles for our collective grandmothers, I pause. Obligatory selfie, because proof of life, because it’s been eighteen hours, because I like to pretend my absence creates a tunneled void. The rain is coming in sheets, an august storm prepping for impact. It’s almost autumn.

No matter how fast the world moves, your time zone isn’t mine. A lag between pressing words onto my screen and when you respond. Propel: to move forward but this word isn’t mine. My coordinates are locked in and you’re not moving. In October, I pretend to be a witch, all herbs for drying and glass jars for canning. My edges don’t feel so sharp. When you do respond, now you call me Pelly; you think I’m becoming soft. In my kitchen, I learn how to sterilize, to remove the invisible that might damage my brews. I want to ferment, self-contained chemistry, contained inside you, that specific shape.

My apartment is freezer-box cold. Dough I set on the counter won’t rise so I reach for my sharpest knife and cut it into slivers. Strips to make boiled bagels, scalding hot water and bursting bubbles rendering the dough. Prop, your message starts. Stop trying to do things you know you’ll fail. Go for a run. I consider reminding you of your vernal pledge but maybe I have renewed and I just don’t know it.

It’s already winter. Snow mounds and wind helps it shift shapes. Sometimes its silence seeps in through the crack of my back door. I’m no longer your Prop or your Pelly. Today is Sunday, the date I know you rotate your A and B weeks. You haven’t written in two days. There’s no reason you shouldn’t, but there’s no reason you should. I knew you and I don’t know you. What a chasm this love was supposed to fill.

Jessica Evans is a Cincinnati native who practices uprooting and restarting her life every few years. Work is forthcoming in Lily Poetry Review, X-R-A-Y Lit, and Collateral. She’s the prose editor for Headline Press and the flash fiction editor for Mineral Lit. Connect with her on Twitter @jesssica_evans.