©2020 by Canvas Literary Journal

Published by Cosmographia Books

Background art “Submerged” by Amelia Ao

Canvas logo by Ali Wrona

Peekaboo

Alina Y. Liu

Winter 2020

in six months summer turns to fall, and then winter again.

it is ample time for play, for the chatters and groans of back-to-school frenzies, for the delicate touch of palm against cheek, tilting face up into sun

 

at sun, staring until it blinds me, imagining it’s your face there looking down

 

over and over and over, the carousel we danced on when we were children, scuffed sneakers tripping each other, tumbling head over heels. going in circles, going nowhere.

 

in six months i hide my face behind my fingers, and watch the world from behind the cage of my own shadow, light a barcode on my face. me, for sale, nine dollars and five cents, which is how much you spent on two popsicles so i would look up at you, when we first met.

 

juice dripped onto the pages of my book and i looked up and you looked down and

 

peekaboo, you say, but i don’t pull my hands away, because you are not saying it, not really. you can’t. you’re not here.

 

you sent a letter once but i burned that.

 

(stuck my hands into the fire to fish it out, but it was useless, and the words were already charred, the ash-snow of a bombed city back in japan. my wrist skimmed against the still-glowing embers of the match i lit and when i met myself in the reflection of the smoke, the sizzle and stab, i flinched away.)

 

(i was always so good at setting fires. you were my kindling.)

 

you warmed me and i touched you and you were reduced to nothing in my arms, and zero could be multiplied by infinity and still corrode it down to the same emptiness, and

 

subtracted from you, i disappear.

 

in six months i forget what your voice sounded like. and then your smile, your face. your name goes last but that’s not how it’s supposed to be: i’m not supposed to forget.

 

you were supposed to be forever.

 

i dig my nails into my brain, splitting my hemispheres down the middle, and one becomes two, except one is dead. one is you. i pick myself apart to find the piece of me that was supposed to remember.

 

i find nothing and in six months i hollow myself out and sit quietly on the carousel. waiting for another letter, waiting for

Alina Y. Liu is a junior at Shanghai American School in Shanghai, China. She is a shameless lover of fanfiction and writes exclusively at three in the morning. She can verify that the Kenyon Review Young Writers’ Workshop is life-changing, and dreams of settling down with a girl and nine cats.