stroke by stroke, she’d painted the sky around her. over the years, she’d collected pale blues and gentle hues of pink. the look of sleepy morning waves and the shade of innocence, i could almost hear her say. she was always so eager to douse this world in a bucket of optimism, quickly seeing something to admire in what everyone else sought to detest. shy, blushing shades of white were there, too. they peeked out of the pastels like late blooming hyacinths amidst a bouquet of lilies and roses. she would often call me over, eagerness filling her voice. come look, it’s more beautiful than it’s ever been. i’d feel her tug on my clothes until i relented and glanced upward at the heavens she’d so tirelessly concocted. i want to say i was always impressed, taken aback by the palette she’d put together or the subtle regality it professed. but my breath never did stop short nor my eyes begin to water. rather, i reacted with a sense of dismay. looking into her sky, i felt the cheap thrills similar to that of generic postcards— appreciation that held only for a second due to familiarity and unoriginality. too many storms i’d seen in a lifetime to trust the sky again; too many lightning strikes had set the earth under me ablaze for me to watch anything but the ground. so i took in her tired display, kissed her small forehead, and went to sit down again. an hour later, i could look out at her sitting on the concrete, still absorbed at the sky surrounding her. the years passed and her favorite colors would still occasionally materialize behind the varying landscapes of passing life. only once in a while i would notice her staring upwards when the sunrise gave way to her signature light blues and pinks. but as the years grew longer, i looked to find her sitting under her favored creation and discovered her empty spaces more often than her presences. more time passed. i no longer saw her or her sky at all. i craved to stand up and make my way outside in the coolness of dusk and have her hold my hand underneath the moving clouds. now all i had in her memory was a single photo. i had to dig around in old boxes to locate the aged memento covered in dust. wiping it away like the sands of time, i saw her face for the first time in years. my own eyes stared back at me. they were wider back then, when i was younger. not so strained and narrowed. i wore my light brown hair in two loose braids then. my now straight, dark hair bears little resemblance. where did you go, sweet girl? in the reflection of the glass frame i barely recognized myself and the disdain in my face. can i find you again, dear? i tried to remember how it got like this and when exactly i let hardships drain the vitality out of my breath. you mustn’t have gone far. i stood there, amazed. how easy it is to lose sight of what once was the only thing you could ever see.

Flowers lining the street for Christian Dior’s funeral, 1957 by Loomis Dean

his raspy melodies sail over her thoughts as they make their way through the black violet night; she can’t bear to do anything but listen as the undertones of the music bring out the fullness of his song. the car rumbles along and she cant contain her adoration for his effortless harmonies. where’d you learn how to sing like that. he laughs awkwardly, almost embarrassed for her. nah, nah. i don’t sing. yet his apparent disagreement to her compliments doesn’t make him reluctant to fill the space with his modern lullaby. he doesn’t miss a beat, each syllable of each lyric proudly delivered like it was an entire composition in itself. she sits silent in awe, leans her head back into the headrest, impressed. he beats on the steering wheel with his thumbs, nods his head to the music, looks on. the car purrs under the bass trembling their bones. he apologizes, when i get high i really get into the music. she laughs because she’s speechless, but he takes offense, the insecurity embracing him like an old friend. they couldn’t understand each other any less. in a futile plot to impress, he purposefully comes off as unaffected and independent; all she wants is proof that she’s moved him, made him need her at all. their end games are repellant— a match to each other’s soaked firewood. but, probably, neither of them minded. as long as there was friction they could at least pretend they felt heat. having real flame was the very least of their worries. the bass thumps as the car trembles onward, slicing the chilled night air. she looks at him and he pretends not to notice.