A STORY by ELLE REED

EARTH, BUT MAYBE JUST MY BODY


1. TERRA


One planet to another, planet terra being my body. Jay tells me it’s a strange body, but only recently. When we first met he was all, “there’s no one like you,” and licking whipped cream up from my ribcage, but now it’s all different. Down to a science.

Our first date, the Observatory. We watched Jupiter kiss Planet Terra. Sun in Aquarius, moon in Leo. Planets aligned in orbit. Like magic.

Back in my dorm room, brown hair falling over his eyes as he sucked on my nipple and I came three times and then he erupted inside of me, hot volcano.


2. SALT


But we’re the only system with salt. Not the moon. Not the stars. Not any other planet.

Salt in our ocean, salt in the soil, salt in our tears, salt in our sweat.

Hey, Jupiter, Jay, doesn’t that make me special? And then, doesn’t that make us special?

He smiles, but he knows best, yet he won’t tell me the answer.

“I’d like to go everywhere on Earth with you,” I say.

Like, what if we just left this room, and drove to the ocean and jumped in at the port. What if we just swam, clothes and all? That’s what I’d really like to do with you. And if it rains even better.

But he doesn’t get it. We go to a restaurant in San Jose, six blocks from the marina. He orders clam chowder and I order seafood linguine. One candle lit on a white tablecloth made of paper. A few streets from the Aquarium. Monterey. Pinot noir from Sonoma. Chardonnay from the valley.

Some chick keeps texting him over dinner. He tells me the name is Oscar, he tells me she’s a he, but I know better.

He links his pinkie finger around my pinkie finger.

Why didn’t he tell me the answer. Jay, why didn’t you tell me the answer?


3. RIVERS


The Sacramento is the largest river in California. The Great Saphenous is the longest in the human body. Our blood is full of salt but also earth.

When an earthquake hits, say a 1906 or maybe a Loma Prieta, blood runs through the cracks. A person can be an earthquake too. A lover can feel like an earthquake.

“Think of your veins like rivers,” Fey says to me. Fey is my friend. She works at a bar on Mission. “Now look at the flesh of your palm, look at all the rivers.” She is holding my left hand in hers. “Then look at the marks on the flesh.” They look like cracks and I think of all the earthquakes. “Here is heartbreak,” she points, “here is disaster.”

But why can’t we just float along the river and never stop?

Natural disaster, she tells me.

“Jay told me yesterday he doesn’t like my hair color,” I say. I’m a natural brunette. Golden at the edges from the sun. I’m holding a strand between my fingers. “I’ve never dyed it,” I say, “I don’t want to dye it.”

“What color does he want it?”

“Blonde,” I say and look up to her.

“Jay sounds like a dick,” Fey says.

“Yeah, but I love him.”


4. FLORA


Berkeley Rose Garden, I thought he stood me up, but there he is. He’s holding my hand and pressing me into a

Redwood.

“You’re so skinny,” he says between breaths, holding my waist.

“Yeah, so?” I ask, but he just keeps kissing me. And now his hands are on my ass, so I say, “at least I have an ass,” and he grabs my ass hard and says, “yeah, at least.”

We keep kissing, but I used to be good enough.

“Hey, you know your friend Fey?” He asks.

“What about her?”

He looks at me then laughs, brushing it off, “Uh, never mind.”


5. JUPITER


One planet to another, if only briefly, one moon and a sun and a planet, a solar eclipse. (“Jay, your voice sounds like Anorexia nervosa.” “What’s Anorexia nervosa?” “In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Health.”

Silence.

“Jay, I think you’re bad for my health.” An imaginary conversation. A human girl with a female body, mind science, patriarchy. One planet to another and a map of the cosmos.)

What’s the soul in the solar system? What’s the heart of the earth?

Someone once told me that if we were to dig down through the soil, deep down into the earth, all the way down, we’d find a portal full of demons, an alternative world full of evil spirits. So is the heart of the human also evil? My demons make me love Jay and his demons make him hate me. “Your desire shall be for your husband, but he shall rule over you.”

Plastic surgeons with their scalpels, Instagram with its filters. Let’s move the Mojave up to the Bay. Let’s move Arabia to San Fransisco. We’ll ride camels up, up, up the curves of Napa’s flesh, make my breasts go from C to F.

After, at True Laurel, across from Jay, I’m sipping a Shirley Temple. I drink and drink until there is only ice and a maraschino. I pick the cherry up from the stem and suck.

“Do you feel like a new person?” He asks between bites of a patty melt.

“No, I feel just like myself except for sore.”

That night he bites down into me.


6. FLESH


Soft volcano, hard volcano. They say love is just science. A reaction in the brain, biology. Jay is an animal; he tears me apart. But what’s evolutionary about two planets in orbit, when they shouldn’t be? It’s good for now, unless it isn’t. But, what is it that makes me want it to be?

His hands are in my hair, which of course, is blonde now. He’s looking for someone else, but will never find her. Thanks, Silicon Valley; the porn is too good now, he’ll always want someone else. It isn’t okay for me to be a real girl anymore or have a real body. But, will he let Earth be Earth?

Now, heavy breathing. Then, he’s in the bathroom, I’m looking out the window; a bunch of identical buildings, shooting up into the sky, skyscrapers, modern mountains, volcanos. The sky would be full of stars, but you can’t see them. A satellite that looks like Mars, yet maybe this is Mars. Earth, but maybe just my body.

 

Elle Reed lives in Michigan with her husband, Austin, and her electric guitar, Polly. When she’s not writing she’s either making love or music.