SmokeLong Quarterly

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Story by Shyla Jones (Read author interview) August 2, 2021

Photograph by Dori Bano

I said, I want to get married. You heard the metal burp of church bells and slit open my belly to inhale the internal rot. We lived above the corner store that sold freeze pops and goldfish in bags of dirty water. When we moved there I sucked on a candy cigarette to do something with my mouth while you dug your way between the owner’s eyes. We left with half of the goldfish stock. I snuck a jar of pickled fig in my balloon sleeve and savored the goosebumps that sprouted from the cold glass. We’re getting so old, I said, though we’d barely scratched the surface of nineteen. The future sat between my rows of teeth like unchewed fruit; if I bit down, it’d explode, sear down my throat until it came back up as roaring acid. The next night I wore a white sundress with lace on the chest and watched the neons of downtown wash me like a technicolor bruise. I only ever wanted you to tell me I was worth bleeding for. Taxis hissed rainwater across my legs, left them dripping in the city’s sweat. Back at the apartment you handed goldfish out to people who knew no better, $20 a pop, and chewed blue Tootsie Rolls like they’d halt the tooth decay. We were both decomposing from the inside out. All of our sins ate away at us at once, from the body in the basement laundry room to the stolen pots of basil from the uptown Italian restaurant. We could’ve been our parents. My mother was a dishsoap woman— a woman with innards as clean as a bubble bath, a clear blue soul, or a bright yellow aura, something like that. Your father jumped into a fire when you were eight. Both gave up alcohol for Lent and called upon the Lord every Sunday, so maybe we could have pretended to be deity children too. I’m in the bath now, the clawfoot rusted over and burning, and the water is all salt and dead bodies. You’re in the kitchen, and your hands are curling backward. I want disintegration too. The blueness of new death, before the earth’s turn to feed, when a body still looks marbleized. Orandas flop aimlessly by my feet. Underneath us, the body bears another nameless night.

About the Author

Shyla Jones is a Black writer from the East Coast. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Superfroot Magazine and a collector of nostalgia. Find her on Twitter @imnotshyla.

About the Artist

Dori Bano is a photographer splitting time between Budapest and York.

This story appeared in Issue Seventy-Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-Two

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