Claire Oleson

Still-Life Where the Light is Devastated But the Vase is Okay


I frayed my knuckles. The museum was nice. So I already know she’s dating someone somewhere else and they probably have vastly interesting somethings going on with them, but when she said she liked my suspenders, well I dangled on that elastic for a while because it’s gotten hard to get happy so sometimes you have to trick yourself into a little bit of it even if you know it will break later. When I fell on the sidewalk, I landed on my fists, not my palms, and I held myself there like a good question and marveled at how I’d decided to fight the concrete instead of guard myself. I walked the rest of the way shaking my hands in the air, hoping maybe the red swells would transfer to something else, like the little body of wind tumbling its muscles down the hillside, or maybe just get digested by the dark, but the hurt was faithful and the ache stayed with me and so I rinsed my knuckles off in the bathroom and then just sort of stuck my hands into socks and tried to sleep it all off.

I wish I’d stayed up so that when my roommate got home he could say “what the fuck, julia,” and then we’d be able to laugh about all of it, but someone somewhere with their vastly interesting something was tired and it was me so I had to slip into the covers and try not to laugh alone because that’s rarely a good thing to do if you’re not happy. I think my dad’s getting too cute. I think my parents are older than I expected them to be by now and I’m afraid because I love them so much when I see them. It’s interesting to know that there are things out there that could definitely ruin me and that they’re for sure going to happen eventually. My dad in those glasses, those are going to break at some point. The wind’s body is still mumbling in and out of a few gallbladders in the dark when I finally am able to fall asleep. It’s starting to get very difficult

to do, the sleep, but some things are still harder and hurt more so I take that as some breed of reassurance.

On Wednesday, my roommate adopts a dog and brings it in and gestures to it. It’s still morning, (not the dog but the everything else,) and I look to where my roommate’s gesture leads and there is something like a dog at the end of it and I get to say “what the fuck, julia,” (even though that’s my name and not his name, it’s just something we say a lot) and then we get to laugh and the dog builds a bark in her chest and shoves it out like a happiness of some kind and we believe her. I see the girl who’s dating someone later that day and I’m not wearing my suspenders so I feel like I could cry but I will either recover or not recover and I decide to take that as a reassurance. We have a dog now. I’ll be driving home for the scary half of December and I’ll be going north until the air is so jagged I’m forced to keep moving just to stay out of numbness and then there will be my parents and I will try to be happy about that.

I think I may have hurt someone that I did not mean to hurt and it has been bruising me to think about. So the museum has these pictures where the faces are gone and I was already so tired when I looked at them that I did not say “interesting, it must be about something, that’s nice,” and instead I just asked her, “hey, where’d they go?” as if they’d been there before and had since wandered off past their paint. I woke up to these four little red suns on my knuckles, you know, once I got the socks off.

Dying gas giants, is what I think about the red knuckles before I remember they’re mine so they can’t be stars or even far away enough for them to be dying without me dying first. I pressed them like buttons and they talked to me, a little, which meant I had to be a little careful with everything for the next few hours. I looked at the dog which was just sitting there, my

roommate’s gesture from days ago dragging limply behind it like a second tail. What am I going to do with all that? Keep going, I suppose, make little paper boxes for my roommate because he likes them and then I’ll walk that dog and then I’ll grow my knuckles past their hurt and some days I will wear those suspenders with my necklace and I’m sure I’ll kiss maybe one more person in the next two years and I’ll make a way for that to be enough and so it will be enough, my, look at those dog eyes, they want something. I get up with my hands still my hands and agree to the dog. So at the museum I wanted to know where the faces were because I believed in them so I tried to find them on the other people and maybe I saw one or two that looked like they’d fit really really well on canvas but I got too invested so I had to go cry in the bathroom for a while and she waited outside and just thought I was peeing so that all went down quite well.

I used to play this sport where you fought people and I wonder why I did it because I’ve always been someone who’s afraid of things. I used to fray my knuckles on punching bags because I liked to hit them at a diagonal and let my hand drag across the leather like a match but nothing ever lit besides my skin and it wasn’t about hurting so much as it was about burning up some time with something really really interesting.

So at the museum I thought I saw a blank that could have been my face and I was so tired that I thought I ought to give it back but I didn’t of course because there was a guard watching and they don’t want you to change the art.

I think I may try to go on a melatonin supplement soon. My mother says she was in love with a coroner before she was in love with my father but then it turned out he knew way too much about bodies to navigate them well so she left him for this man who needed glasses and ate more and liked movies she wasn’t really that into and that it’s all been really good since then. I

wonder, a lot of the time, if I have one of the faces from the museum. I shake my head and think about how it might come off but of course I don’t think it, not really. I take that dog for that walk and it’s cold so I keep the walk short and it’s not bad.

I got so tired on thursday night that I held myself in bed and stayed up for six hours. The dog’s eyes swam around the room, yellow and lined with dark flecks of want and affection, it’s a good dog. If it eats me in my sleep I will forgive it. I will keep going. I will make boxes with my hands and the little apples on my knuckles will rot to cider and then back to skin and my roommate will like the little boxes and for a little while yet my dad’s going to have those glasses on and the world will wear him like a little pin and it will look so cute with him broached onto the lapel of its geography.

So the museum was nice and so was she and there are better things then all this and I’m going to take that as a reassurance and get a prescription for melatonin and then also some allergy medication because I think this dog is killing me.


 Claire Oleson is a queer writer hailing from Grand Rapids Michigan. She’s currently studying English and Creative Writing at Kenyon College. She’s an avid fan of books, bread, and trying to win the hearts of all felines, regardless of how cantankerous they may be. Her work has been published by the University of Kentucky’s graduate literary journal Limestone, Werkloos Magazine, and Bridge Eight Magazine among others.