by Wina Puangco
I want to tell her that I think we’re pretending we are men. We’ve been in love with beautiful boys singing at lights for as long as I can remember, have been writing stories about them since before we called them stories at all—dream them falling into love like a kiss is a high-dive at a circus. We sew ourselves into suits but keep us pretty: on the page, I do away with painted nails but keep her lashes, commit to the delicate blue veins on the insides of her wrists, curate the way she slides things across the table at me when she wants me to take them. Freud would call it envy, I call it an erasure of erasure. In the story, there is no need for an object: he slips his pinky around mine and I loosen my tie and the thing I have taken is a secret like we pulled us out of a hat. I call it anger: desire is a teacup and I am a mustachioed acrobat because it’s the only way I can shrink to fit, plink into that earl grey. When I am me, I need to be shoved or swung. He is made for leaping, loops their pinkies together and swoops in for the kiss. Today, she pushes a pack of cigarettes toward me and I set the clandestine thing on fire.
In the dream, we are boys kissing. Afternoon light hits the room like a stone through glass, bleeds blue on the paisley-patterned wallpaper. The room starts to fill with water, soaking our feet through our leather shoes. Your hair is short, nape bare like a bee sting. I cup a hand over the buzzcut, blaze in a bell jar. The hems of our pants bloom in the rising tide. My hands go like clockwork, ticking away at the buttons of your shirt as if nakedness will keep us from drowning. The water is neck-high. You remove my coat, loosen my tie, leave them to sink. The water is as high as the room. We look up. The ceiling looks like a glass held up to the light. We let out our breath and our loafers come away as we float to the surface. We are in the ocean, ink-black except for the moonlight that takes the shape of our shoulders. A serpent coils and recoils, scales like black waves in the distance. You laugh and pull me back under so we kiss like diving and then pull apart, bodies slipping out of salted skin: we are women and we can swim.
Wina Puangco writes prose poems and fiction. Her work has appeared in Driftwood Press, Plural Online Prose Journal, TAYO Literary Magazine and the Southern Pacific Review. She has published two chapbooks of short stories, Paperweight and The Elements. She was a finalist for the 2015 Sozopol Fiction Fellowship. She also runs the YouTube channel WinaWonders, on which she talks about books, reading, and literature in general. You can find links to her full body of work here.