"The word of a snail on the plate of a leaf?
It is not mine. Do not accept it.
Acetic acid in a sealed tin?
Do not accept it. It is not genuine."
- "The Couriers" Sylvia Plath, 1961.
I am running. My feet thump vigorously through the tall grass and the sky threatens to collapse and drown me in soft shards of periwinkle. The meadow is a fictitious, almost neon green, its blades of grass reaching elegantly towards the sky and brushing lovingly at it. The soft yellows of flowers stain the image, and subtle hues of cream mix and blur with them. Sounds add delicate flavors to the scene, the prickly notes of birds winding through the branches of trees, and the muted breath of the wind places delicate pressure on my ears.
The morning is beautiful, as it ought to be; the birth of a new day, and I am preparing for a hunt. There's a celebratory mood in the air, even the birds seem to understand that. My brothers and sisters run alongside me, sixteen of us in all, half human, and half wolves. I stagger to breathe, as do seven of my siblings, as humans are paler and weaker; I tire easily.
The female alpha wolf skips beside my heaving body, and gently nips me. She is playful, and as I turn she adjusts her body to remain just out of my vengeful lunge. Her tongue hangs out of her black lips, saliva traveling lazily downward as she pants. I lunge once more, feeling her hot breath wet my fingers as she avoids me again, her lips spread wide like laughing.
Suddenly she bolts into a run, and I follow her, my energy regained and somehow I know that I will be able to catch her. My bare feet, colored a pale, pale peach, hit the ground rhythmically as my leaps take me closer to my goal. It occurs to me that she is letting me catch her, but then I dismiss the thought because this is a game. And she always wins; that's why she is the alpha.
Nevertheless, I reach her, and my fingers travel the length of her long, silver fur. Her body is soft, my fingers slipping slightly on the delicate surface but never truly leaving it. We run together, dashing like children madly through the meadow as my palms rest on her back.
I think now that I truly believe in a runner's high, because with her the world feels freer and the longer we run, the more efficient my lungs become at taking in oxygen. Or maybe my legs are so numb I no longer feel the pain, but either way I crash, and I fall hard.
For whatever reason, as I roll on the grass she stops. I lay face-up and fill my lungs several times, each time my throat burning more and my legs closer to catching fire. She pants over my and licks my nose. Normally, I would react verbally but my scorched throat is in no condition to produce words. I communicate my affection through body language, and as my eyes convey the thought her hind legs descend and her forearms rest on the ground, her right elbow by my right elbow. Her tongue rolls over my throat, and affectionately attempts to heal the fire in my legs. The heat from her mouth is different from the heat under my skin, and I feel slightly better. As two of my human siblings wander towards us, perhaps with intentions to inquire, or perhaps to laugh and rest and look for shapes in clouds, the alpha growls a warning from the deep abyss of her throat. It is this act that marks me as her mate.
With great difficulty, over the course of the next few days, I am able to discern the reactions of the rest of the pack. The human half remains carefree and always laughing. They do not mind when they go back to their houses at night that I stay with the wolves, and they remain naked and loving and almost unaware of my shift in status and in language. The language of the wolves is harder. Here, there is more classified rank and it is more difficult to ascend; usually these are predicted from birth. I am different.
While they love me, and they love me dearly, I feel in them and see in their gestures that they are afraid. They fear, I think, I will take away their leader to live as humans do. But there is an even greater fear underneath: I have stolen the alpha's fertility. We will not produce children. Their pack will not survive.
The alpha herself is blindly in love. She does not bother to read these fears, and she does not attempt to read in my head my secret desire. She questions why I ache, but she doesn't wait for the explanation. This ignorance is wise. While we love and we sleep and we hunt beside one another, always in sync and always moving, my desire will never cease. It is wise of her to ignore a desire that could never be fulfilled.
"I wish she had fingers."
I speak the wish to the mirror as I tie my hair back. I have three little bronze bobby pins in my mouth. It's funny to ponder the reasoning of such a supernatural dream when considering the present, to go back and to pour over the memories, explore the avenues of a mind with newly released boundaries. It's like experiencing a minute inside a stranger's mind and trying to dissect all the layers there.
One of the bobby pins falls from my mouth and into the sink. My fingers pick it out of the porcelain bowl and pin back locks of disobedient hair. I concentrate for a minute, focusing mostly on the shift between friendliness and love, between playfulness and intimacy; the reasoning there. I don't often pick apart my dreams, as I usually stumble, or trip, or watch my teeth fall out one by one, but this particular dream puzzles me because it is odd; I read somewhere about animal dreams being associated with sexual desire.
My lips pull into a one sided grin. In my reflection I notice the shape of my nose, and wonder briefly how I would draw it - the shape, the shading. Noses are difficult because all they are is shading; no bones for structure, only cartilage. If I spent enough time sketching self-portraits, maybe I would learn to draw them properly. The shame is that I feel unbearably narcissistic when I attempt them. Staring into a mirror, looking down, creating another reflection. Who else do you draw when it's the only face you have?
I glance at the clock. 9:30. Damn. I'm going to be slightly late, maybe by a couple minutes. Gathering the strings of my lace-up shoes, I locate my bag on the armchair and search for my car keys. The funny thing about getting into a car when your sixteen is that you've just watched five hours of car crash videos in driver's education, but you're completely unaware how easy it is to kill yourself. In my seven months of driving, I have only had nine near-death experiences, and nearly all of them occurred during left turns.
Despite my late start, I arrive at the Coffee House with exactly one minute to spare. Frankie sees me from the corner of the shop and waves. The thing about us is that I'm very punctual and she's very early. It makes us good for each other. I take the seat opposite her. In her hands is a steaming cup of coffee. It's probably black coffee - she's odd but very basic.
"Don't you want coffee?" Frankie teases rather than questions me. She knows I don't know how to order coffee. When you order coffee you have to be confident. You have to know exactly what you want, as though you've done it a million times before. The problem is, I've done it a million times before, but I always look inexplicably guilty, or forget what a 'medium' is called and what to say if I want something with cream, or a shot of vanilla in it. And then there's the mistake of saying expresso, and espresso. When asked what my dream superpower is, I always answer with the ability to order coffee.
In response, I make a grotesque sound at the back of my throat. And then I smile, and she smiles back, her hand resting on mine. I notice her fingers are warm still from the heat of the cup. My hand is chapped from winter.
"Marjorie," she says in a singsong voice, "how are you this morning, my love?" She says love strange, almost like a Canadian would pronounce it. Louhve.
Frankie is the only person that calls me Marjorie. My first name is Helena, my full name is Helena Marjorie Grey. When we met in seventh grade, she informed me she despised her aunt, and that her aunt's name was Helen, which is way too close to Helena. However, her great Grandmother's name was Marjorie, and with her death I would soon learn Frankie was very attached to her. I personally believe it's my name that initially attracted her to me. She'll tell you it's my tuba skills.
"Magnificent," I answer, turning on my cellphone. My eyes are averted for a moment, but instantly return to her rich hazel ones. Constantly I lose myself in them. We continue in conversation, laughing gently, but smiling widely. Our relationship is oftentimes like sitting in an airport, smooth, glorious, exhilarating. But perfection doesn't reproduce, doesn't have a pair; there isn't two. We were born separate, and separate beings can't become a single, cohesive being. There must be a flaw. We must have a flaw, and every time we fly, we're waiting for it to be exposed.
Today will not be the day. Our hands touch, fingers fitting together in a way that seals all the crevices. "What are you thinking?" She wants to know. She smells subtly of lavender and hazelnut, and I almost have to search for the scent, like trying to become intoxicated from the fumes of a single rose petal.
"I'm thinking about how you smell like lavender," I reply simply. She blushes in a funny way, almost as if trying to recede. I think it surprises her that she inflicts herself in people so effectively. In her face I see she is about to confide in me it makes her feel narcissistic. She squeezes my hand because she doesn't need to. She wants to reassure me I have nothing to do with her distaste.
"Come on," she jerks her head in the direction of her car, "I want to show you something."