I don’t think he wants to die with me but on the off chance that he says yes, I plan on asking him anyway. In the meantime, I’m searching for meaning in every little thing. For instance, when the winter sky is clear like this and we can’t see the stars, what can that mean? I rarely have answers to questions so I ask myself more questions or make dull statements, like now, trying to use sky in as many sentences as possible: fireworks are bursting up into the chained-up sky, a blind rain falling / my womb is barren, though still waiting for a single shooting star to speed across its land of leaden skies / the big nothing is the brightest object in the night sky … I sleep through my alarm clock and thunderstorms but hear my neighbors’ wars in my sleep and a washing machine that’s too loud. I was better off without. He was a fixer, fixing things to make them work again. He’d say, “You need to replace your washing machine, or your marriage, but on the off chance that I can fix it, let me open it up and take a look.” I’m a long-distance kind of gal, watching things, like now, scanning bubbles that form behind the window, and sharks and dolphins swimming on my dead daughter’s PJs. Ever since The Jaws, I’ve been scared shitless of swimming in the ocean. I stand at the edge of a cliff and dive in, regardless, dodging sharks like bullets. The noise I make appears to irritate them so I hold my breath underwater for as long as I can, sometimes pretending to be a dolphin, though they hate dolphins too. Then again you can’t please every single shark you bump into, can you?
Grandfather told me the bombardment in France could be heard in Dover. As the bombs started to fall, I dreamed of being the one to boost morale, like the bagpipes on the beaches of Normandy. When I woke up, I was deep in a trench with no ammo and corresponding musical instrument, and dying seemed easier. The bullets that smashed through my windows made me dirty. Years later, I’d hear the crunching of glass breaking, washing machine gurgling, opening and flooding the floor. “If only I could put myself in, turn it on and come out clean,” I’d think to myself before I let myself be ruined, like that gray turtleneck I adored. I had a revelation smoking pot, went to the laundry room and had a face-to-face talk with the thing. I said, “The life I’m leading is fake / this is the only reality I want to be in / here and now, I choose not to be afraid of you,” and just like that I stopped. We’ve been on speaking terms ever since. And then there’s him who took me with boiling hot water and no softener to the drum, spun me round and drained me away through the drain hose like dirt.
I’m good at hearing guns in people’s heads. I can smell bullets passing right in front of him and warplanes streaking overhead as we speak. His sky is being cut and the blast waves feel like being thumped in the chest. Does he hear mine—a big bang and a shuddering when grenades have exploded? I never go out without my protective flak jacket, no matter what. These days I’m hiding in a high-rise building as gunmen tend to pick off unsuspecting victims and kill them with a single shot to the head. He told me he broke his nose when he was little, which is why he lost a sense of smell, so he’d imagine being a snake, tasting the air with his tongue and catching scent particles with its dampness to identify things: food, danger, food, danger, danger, danger. Your ardor shows itself in your walk that becomes a stagger, as if you were drunk on love. I know where your head’s at but on the off chance that you say you are, I’ll pretend to be dead. Unless, of course, you want to pretend with me.
Serbia-born and Germany-based, Bojana Stojcic was more scared of washing machines than bombardment once. She has her work published in many lit journals, most recently in Loud Coffee Press, Brave Voices Magazine, GLITCHWORDS and Versification. She really loved that turtleneck.