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I never understood the concept of wearing an outfit only once, by which I mean I’ve never thought about my own wedding.

Fiction | Flash Fiction
June 4, 2021

I hate time because it’s always moving past me without my consent. This is what I say to my poet friend at the gentrified coffee shop when I show up late yet again, hoping, but not too visibly, that she accepts my humor as payment or apology. “I’m an air sign,” I explain, as if explaining. I only have 50 dollars left in my account, but I buy us two matcha lattes anyway.  

Lately, I’ve been relying on an app to tell me who I am. It’s charted my life based on my birth date and time, and I’ve decided to believe in it because the idea of Fate has always consoled me. That I don’t have to decide because Something Else has already decided for me is decidedly appealing. 

Today, my app tells me that I have ​pressure in work, thinking & creativity, spirituality, and self, by which it means to say, I think, ​you are alive​. I am reminded of my app’s accuracy when, at the gentrified coffee shop, my poet friend invites me to her church service. She invites me because, recently, she’s found religion and believes it will help me find myself. “But I’m ​right here​,” I want to say and don’t. I tell my poet friend that I abide by a spiritual framework. Astrology is ​inclusive​, by which I mean that ​I​ feel included. How could anyone find fault with that?  

My mother calls me on the phone to ask about the virus, to remind me to keep myself healthy. I tell her not to worry as I stuff Hot Cheetos into my mouth. Anyway, I can’t stop her from worrying because that is the plight of motherhood. 

Most days, I can’t really picture myself being a mother because I’m not as selfless as I should be, which maybe has something to do with being a youngest child. Or maybe it’s just another critical flaw in the long list that I keep to myself for myself: indecisive, too introspective, too lax, lactose intolerant, codependent, control-freak, needlessly contrarian. To collect myself, I save and resave the document in my Notes app. During literature class, I raise my hand to say that the word ​selfless​ is troubling because it implies an erasure of self. I ask why anyone would want that.  

After my white artist friend sees a psychic, she goes around the dinner table to discuss what type of mother we’d all be. My white artist friend would probably be the cool mom who talks openly to her kids about sex because she’s white and an artist. My poet friend will probably raise her kids with her best friend. My poet friend will keep her lover separate from her family—worried that raising children with a lover could ruin the sex life. I start thinking about my own sex life until the circle stops at me, and my white artist friend reminds the table: “This is, of course, assuming that we all want to be mothers.”  

On the phone, my mother asks about my roommate. I tell her she’s good because she is. She’s working at Facebook or Amazon or Dropbox after graduation, and she won’t have to worry about student loans. My mother is careful not to bring up​ my ​debts, which are varied and numerous and probably unpayable, like the fact that I owe her my life. My mother knows not to ask me about my future, so she does her usual dance into the past and asks about the dress she bought for my First Communion: the white one with an oversized bow dangling at the waist. Is it still in my closet? Her new neighbor across the street is having her First Communion next week, and wouldn’t it be so nice if we offered it to her? 

I never understood the concept of wearing an outfit only once, by which I mean I’ve never thought about my own wedding. When we get wine drunk at the gallery opening downtown, my white artist friend tells me she wants a big wedding. Her boyfriend will propose to her, and then she will propose to him too, so it’s a balanced negotiation. “We need equitable partnerships,” she reminds me. My poet friend says she wants to be proposed to because she would never think to pop the question herself. When they ask what I’d want, I say I don’t plan on proposing, that I’d elope maybe. I’d make the decision out of the blue, over coffee or kava, and I might not even tell my mother about it. 

My roommate is more than my roommate, which I suspect my mother has known for quite some time now. Still, on the phone she asks when I’ll get a boyfriend or visit home again. In the middle of our phone call, I check my app, which tells me that ​Today’s Moon Transit is asking you to be brave​. I want to be brave, but I tell my mother that I have a headache, and when I get off the phone, I can’t fall asleep.  

Back at the gentrified coffee shop, my poet friend asks why I call astrology​ inclusive​ when Venus and Mercury are just more white gods. I don’t answer her because I want to sit in my own silence a bit longer, and when I get home, I light the cinnamon scented candle that I hide in my bottom desk drawer because I live in an apartment building where candles are not allowed. I stare at the tiny flame in the tiny room that is mine, even if just for now.  

During blackouts, my mother used to light a prayer candle and place it on the floor between us. To entertain me, or maybe teach some kind of lesson I still haven’t fully grasped, she would run her index finger through the top of the flame, so fast that it wouldn’t burn her. The bright orange glow hugged her face as I imagined it should. Each time she waved her finger back and forth through all that brightness, I felt her saying, no, no, no—over and over—to who knows what. 

Read more flash fiction, including stories by Chris Lee, Soniah Kamal, Anna Vangala Jones, and more, here.