7/11, pinned under fluorescent bulbs that burn his eyes, dipping his skin in harsh yellow light, casting a glow upon stained canines, spoiled—milk teeth covered in nicotine, hidden behind the chapped ring of his lips, brown and pink, unkissed and bound shut
greasy wisps of hair clinging to the plane of a creased forehead, waning darkness, two crescent moons branded upon delicate skin where eyelashes stand to meet red—rimmed sclera, a tired gaze makes teachers worry, but he sleeps just fine ma’am, honest, and grabs a bottle of tylenol
‘cuz the cashier’s leaned their arms on the sticky countertop waiting for the other shoe to drop, for him to lift something into the pocket of his two—sizes—too—big jeans with the holes scraped through the knees
but he’s not a thief, he pays without spilling one syllable from his mouth, tearing the seal under the cap, shaking out two chalky pills to swallow dry, willing away the migraine that greets him every morning
a choir of rhapsodical cognition, rocketing along, a comet in an orbit that simply doesn’t stop, that brought him home D minuses to hide from his mom, on pages where letters swim and slip away from his grasp as if they are the celestial bodies
encircled by fog that makes his hair raise, on arms outstretched to that endless sky over his box of a home, where he still doesn’t speak, where he steals through his bedroom window onto the roof instead of lifting lighters from the 7/11—he only did so once, and they never let him forget it—stumbles across shingles until he can lie atop them, his socks dangling over the gutter
where eyes do not look upon him and cast judgment, where the stars eclipse his vision, softened by light pollution, sees cosmic dust swirling into clusters of dirt road and streetlights and mobile homes and he can see nothing but the boundless system that calls so incessantly
Alissa Salem is a junior at SUNY Fredonia. Salem studies animation/illustration, with a nifty minor in creative writing. They enjoy drawing, playing strange instruments, and the cute things in life.