‘Filaments of Air’ by Tommy Dean


I've got the sharp, little scissors palmed in my hand, and I'm waiting in line. Your brothers and sisters, your mother, stood in front of your casket. Chelsea, crying, her makeup streaking down her cheek like ink from a broken fountain pen. Your mother tucks Chase's beanie little head against her hip, and she's gasping for air. And maybe you finally did it, took away all the oxygen? Remember, how we'd put those balloons to our lips, shrugging away the taste of latex, staring at our chests in the mirrors, our bird bodies taking the shape of women, until you gagged, the ball of air sputtering out of our fingers, racing around the room, before falling, limp, at our feet.

I made the mistake of hugging your mother before I asked for the snip of your hair. I could feel you whispering, "Ask first," but it was too late. The intimacy I had to trade was given freely, your mother leeching my little thread of power, our bodies, so similar, down to the misshapen pinky toes, the nails like flattened pennies, our hair the same honeydew coloring that usually comes from a box. I was proud of her, your mom, for not saying your name, though I would have taken your place.

I'm alone up here, and its the first time I've been close enough to see that your makeup is all wrong. That instead of scissors, I should have brought more foundation, an eyelash curler, certainly, some blush, a touch of lipstick, because I want to remember you smiling, crying from laughter, my stupid jokes making you spit out your soda until it soaked into the carpet. But I've always been the selfish one, right? So I'm going to make use of these scissors, because why should the Earth get the best of you? I skim the blades over the plush crèche of the casket lining, the points ripping the fabric subtly. The darkness will know I was here first. I tug sharply, but you don't cry out. We've seen too many horror movies, joked too often about zombies, wondering why you couldn't look half-dead and gorgeous. If anyone had a chance, it was you.

I take a plait of hair, wishing they had let me braid it. Your bangs sit awkwardly against your forehead. You look like one of those late-in-life movie starlets, reaching back for the summer of their ingénue fame; a soccer mom on a Sunday morning sipping her Chamomile tea. The scissors jump in my hand, raking across that unnaturally flat space of skin, metal grinding, as the hair shreds into fine whispers of eyelashes, as I grab the larger pieces that dot your cheeks. I bend toward you, blowing, giving you my last filaments of air. 

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