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Story by Sharmini Aphrodite (Read author interview) August 3, 2015

Art by Tan Hui Li

You kept your milk teeth in a prescription bottle for cough medicine; the whole thing pushed unceremoniously in the back of a cupboard drawer. When the light came in through your window each morning it blessed the bed from head to foot. Your bleached blonde hair was a light. Your mother a premonition. You drank condensed milk straight out of the tin and once you sliced your finger against the metal lid—the blood watery, all over your finger, running down the skin.


In the early days I called your name as you wrote it, as they called it in school. You pulled your long hair back with one hand and fanned the back of your neck. You sweated a lot, always glowing. When it rained you leaned against the car-seat, eyes-shut tight: the lids trembling slightly. I remember how your mascara was never applied properly, it always clumped: your black eyelashes with something spidery about them, something vaguely Westminster Abbey at midnight with the night sky like a broth. Stars the colour of—white. No colour but white. Or were those satellites we saw? There is no telling these days.


I think the problem with you was that you always wanted to be anywhere but here. Even with me you were always somewhere else, dreaming about something better. Not even better, just different. In the car I’d glance at you while the shadows crossed over you—the leaves, their silhouettes grey and blurred—and there would be this look in your eyes, like you saw something. This film, you would say, this film and it was a movie, a portal. When I reached over and touched your knee you jolted.


When the light came in through your window each morning it blessed the bed from head to foot. Headlights on your wall strangely at three in the morning, when I awoke, bleary-eyed. Where were they going? You showed me a picture from when you were a child, back when your hair was black—so black that no lemon juice would lighten it, you told me: you tried multiple times lying under the sun, stringy hair up in a ponytail—you were smiling. A cotton dress with flowers on it. Eyes closed and a big smile. The photographer—your mother—made a mistake: the light leaked, and half of you was bathed in the orange of a falling sun.


The one time you let your anger get the best of you it stayed forever: you never did fix that hole in the window. It was jagged-edged and cracks spread from it. You moved the table under it because when it rained from then on everything got wet. Everything flew all over the room: the leaf skeletons, the papers, the pencils. All of it, everywhere. I rolled over in bed and a sheet of music was stuck to my back.


The day you left you wore a white dress and the sky was the softest thing. Outside the ferns shivered and they closed the coffee shop early: from across the road we could hear the metal grill sheet being pulled down, the scraping sound of it. The softest, softest thing. You smiled at me and pointed at the inside of your wrist, there were two colours: blue and green. Like the sea, you said. Like the sea, I agreed. And so it was I saw you last, always in my mind’s eye: standing—or so it seemed—just in front of the sun, so that the light came in from behind, and your hair became fire and your skin was aflame: you were luminous, you were illuminated, and that was the last.


Notes from Guest Reader Nuala Ní Chonchúir

I loved this story’s opening line—immediately the writer is painting an interesting word picture for the reader. When I read eyelashes described as ‘something vaguely Westminster Abbey at midnight,’ I knew I was reading a writer who cares deeply about language. All of the images are unusual and well chosen, like the sheet music stuck to the narrator’s back in bed. The recurring use of light in the story is masterful and the abrupt ending suits the nature of the doomed relationship perfectly. It’s all beautifully done.

About the Author

Sharmini Aphrodite is a 20-year-old recent graduate with a diploma in performing arts management. Her piece “all we know of” will be published in the June 2015 issue of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal. She spent the first four months of 2015 working for a Swedish magician and has been the assistant stage manager for an acclaimed Chinese Opera troupe. She currently resides in Singapore.

About the Artist

Tan Hui Li is a recent Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts graduate with experience in both design and fine art and a background in arts education. She is adaptable to different themes and styles, with a penchant for minimalism and abstraction. As an energetic and eager learner, Hui Li seeks opportunities in Graphic Design and Fine Arts related fields. She is currently 20 this year and resides in Singapore.

This story appeared in Issue Forty-Nine of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Forty-Nine

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