by Alvin Park
- Pull the carrots from the earth, dirt clinging to their eyes. Remember when that was you? Remember when you heard the snap? Remember when you couldn’t open your eyes?
- Wash the carrots in the river, where you think you hear the names being called, the familiar names.
- S? Do you remember when she used to just call you S? Sometimes just your last name, like the explorer, finding the source of the Nile.
- Unwrap the stick of butter and place it in the dish. Put the dish by the fire until the stick sweats, until you see the yellow streaks pooling under its belt.
- When you first came home with the cast around your leg, she kissed where she thought it hurt the most, where your kneecap had to relearn where it should sit.
- Combine the flour, the salt, the cinnamon, and the nutmeg into the same bowl. Sift through your fingers. Feel the powder like crushed bones under your fingernails.
- When the cast finally came off and the bandages lay unwrapped on the floor, you could feel her lips on every scar, every tissue sewn back together.
- Cut the carrots. And then cut them again. Cut them smaller, so small that you can see the juice pried out, the smell of sweet roots.
- You think, She once loved me.
- You think, She once said she loved me.
- In another bowl, mix the honey, the eggs, the coconut oil that reminds you of her hair.
- It used to be the first thing you smelled every morning. Like paradise, you used to say, and her hair would shine and wave and she’d turn over and kiss you. Like paradise, you used to say.
- Stir the bits of carrot into the wet ingredients. Stir in the walnuts, raisins, pieces of dried apricot. The favorite pieces of earth that you remember.
- Write down every word you wished you could have said to her. Write down the lies, the truths, the dream you had of your first date.
- Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until the batter forms and holds together.
- In the dream, you stood at her door, holding a pie. Because flowers are a cliché, you said. She took you by the hand and you felt every warm part of you, the muscles that seemed to melt and come undone, your knee set and re-set again. She took you to the table where the bowls steamed hot. You both laughed and looked and listened to the stories about nieces and lost dogs and places where you could sit and see squirrels climbing bark. You kissed her around the shoulders, down her back, up her thighs. You made a memory of her with your lips. You thought, This is how I make every turnaround jumper. At the end, you held her, and even though you could wrap your arms around her, you felt like you could never contain her, not all of her.
- But when was the last time you slept?
- Pour the batter into the cake pan.
- Before she left, you asked her why and she said, Because Cleveland is home. Cleveland is away from you. Because we need our space. Because I don’t know if you ever knew me.
- You think if she’s right.
- Place the cake pan into the oven at 325 degrees for 48 minutes.
- Did you ever truly see her
- Sprinkle with coconut flakes and serve.
Alvin Park lives and writes in Portland. He’s associate fiction editor at Little Fiction. His work has been featured in The Rumpus, The Mojave River Review, Wyvern Lit, Synaesthesia Magazine, Wildness, and more. His parents are Korean. He has a long way to go. Follow him on Twitter at @chipmnk.
Art by Issue 9 featured artist, Emily Truman
Emily has displayed work at various galleries, including “Nasty Women” in Philadelphia and “Vulvacular” in Chelsea, NYC. In addition to being in the process of becoming a teaching artist with South Central PaARTners through Millersville University, Emily holds a free monthly bring-your-own-everything collage workshop at Lancaster Art Studios, and teaches monthly workshops at The Candy Factory. Follow her on instagram at @collage__dropout.