I cannot stop sneezing. My hands spread around my face, splayed like starfishes. Before and afterwards I glance almost conspiratorially around the room, in case someone has been witness to my biological, natural, but thoroughly hideous act. I’ll smile, and the next feeling that will bubble up is six-percent-yellow, warm gray. 

Slate gray? No, more like Payne’s gray – blended with ultramarine and sienna. A shade, supposedly, not a color, and so I sympathize with it, in the way only a girl can sympathize with a visual perceptual property corresponding to the spectrum of light.

I quietly stretch my arms and legs in class, limbs reacting to the tension under my skin. My shadow on the wall is a small, jangly conglomeration of charged, shaking, bored human extremities and crisp, curly hair that is just clean enough to be acceptable to society’s preconceived notions. 

When I get home I splash water on my eyes, peel socks off my toes with their haggard nails. I lean back on my chair, hands hanging off the sides, fully relishing the noise the sofa makes as Alex jumps on it, the thunk of the door as my mother comes in, the roaring of motorcycles outside my window (quite possibly the best thing about the house, that window).

I think of that time, back in elementary school, when I stole your ballpoint pen just so you’d have to ask me for mine. Later, when you were turned the other way, I dropped it back in your bag, watched you sling it over your shoulder and slip past the corner. Somehow, I found a mellow, strange kind of pleasure in knowing something you would never have reason to, in how you walked away, snapping your fingers, tucking your hair behind your ear, completely unaware that something you had been searching for had been returned to you.

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