On New Year’s Day, you suggested we celebrate by going to Taco Bell. Thirty-four years on this planet, and I had never been before. And you explained that holidays were made for new beginnings, and open adventures and we should commemorate the start of the year with something special for us to grow on.
“It’s rare to still be able to have firsts when you’re a grown-up,” you said.
The robot box is gray-metal and silver with a voice like an enraged automaton. It asked our order and I got a potato and cheese burrito. You ordered most of the rest of the menu. We sat in the blue sedan and handed the Mountain Dew Baja Blast back and forth, it was the color of the Pacific Ocean on bright days and we traveled across the country on the wakes of the soda.
There were about eight tacos in your lap and you made me try each one. I don’t remember which of the eight I like-liked, but I said they were all good. At that moment in the car, the heat on too high, I probably did think all the tacos tasted good. The ghost ships of piled ashen snow from a snowstorm two weeks prior were our only parking lot companions. You kissed my dry winter cheek, pouched like a squirrel eating too much.
“Life-changing, huh?” you said.
I learned about Saint Days when I was a kid in Catholic School. How the martyred devoted were venerated with a day on the calendar. Eventually, there were too many saints dying in multiples on the same day and their feasts had to be moved. Saints demoted.
The saint for my birthday is St. Roch. He is the patron saint of dogs, and the wrongly accused, and bachelors. He was often invoked against the plague.
After we ate, I said, “You’re the patron saint of Taco Bell.” And you handed me a wrapper from one of your tacos, fanned me with it before placing it in my hands. “You can worship this, like a what-did-they-call-it?”
That night your hair looked like it was born from the primal murder, the freckles on your cheeks were berries colored like drops of blood and I touched my wet lips to each spot. So much red in one room. You mapped my body with your teeth creating craters of purple moons and storms of planets, entire universes in and on my frame. Having sex with you was always like putting my lips to water and not being able to drink. Thankfully, the ocean of soda from earlier slaked an un-relievable thirst.
Your departure was an origin myth. Our life was the persistent rolling boil of water in the pot until it foamed and spilled its tides into the flame below. I marked the time we spent together in meals: communions marked by new experiences versus those eaten in silence.
We were both stone statues. Your deadweight leg always on top of me and the blood berries I once kissed were each a stinging star behind my closed lids. Every thirst-filled evening was the same, I lived with the dryness and my life felt like the sound of a scream.
Why does devotion sometimes feel like a sickness?
On the day that you disappeared, you gathered your stuff in garbage bags and said goodbye to only our dog.
“Don’t let her give you too many treats,” you said petting the shaggy dog with her triangle ears.
As the door closed, I became soft feathers stuck on the sticky ground outside of the 46th street subway stop. So grounded that I was pulverized. The dog kept wagging her tail.
A few short months later it was New Year’s Day, and I was the first girl in the history of the world to be able to fly on paper wings made from the fabric of a taco holder; a relic found on its Saint Day.
The ocean is diamond-topped and hurting when you dive drop into it. Walking past the window of the drive-in the swells of the soda I cradled were the gentle pitches of low tide. The bag of tacos swung like a pendulum. Affection is a flower-body pressed between scraps of whatever paper you can find; the empty parking lot a whole world that existed inside and outside of me.
Jane-Rebecca Cannarella is a writer based in Philadelphia. She is the editor of HOOT Review and Meow Meow Pow Pow Lit. She is the author of Better Bones and Marrow (Thirty West Publishing House) as well as Unicorn Tracheotomy and Tiny Thoughts for Tiny Feelings (BA Press, 2002). She chronicles the many ways she embarrasses herself at www.youlifeisnotsogreat.com