The Promise

With the second drink, at the restaurant,
holding hands on the bare table,
we are at it again, renewing our promise
to kill each other. You are drinking gin,
night-blue juniper berry
dissolving in your body, I am drinking Fume
chewing its fragrant dirt and smoke, we are
taking on earth, we are part soil already,
and wherever we are, we are also in our
bed, fitted, naked, closely
along each other, half passed out,
after love, drifting back
and forth across the border of consciousness,
our bodies buoyant, clasped. Your hand
tightens on the table. You’re a little afraid
I’ll chicken out. What you do not want
is to lie in a hospital bed for a year
after a stroke, without being able
to think or die, you do not want
to be tied to a chair like your prim grandmother,
cursing. The room is dim around us,
ivory globes, pink curtains
bound at the waist- and outside,
a weightless, luminous, lifted-up
summer twilight. I tell you you do not
know me if you think I will not
kill you. Think how we have floated together
eye to eye, nipple to nipple,
sex to sex, the halves of a creature
drifting up to the lip of matter
and over it-you know me from the bright, blodd-
flecked delivery room, if a lion
had you in its jaws I would attack it, if the ropes
binding your soul are your own wrists, I will cut them.

-Sharon Olds

There’s a unique kind of mythmaking with narratives. Girlhood is a story of desire; innocence; fall from innocence; being desired; being not desired; being desired by the wrong people; by dangerous people; by the right people; by excitingly dangerous people. There’s so much storytelling in girlhood. There’s so much revision in telling it. There will always be something special about fiction. So much of my girlhood was fictive. I lived in my mind. I made up the girl I thought I was. Whether that’s delusional or not, I really felt the happiest and safest in my fictional girlhood. I think the girls in these stories are the same way. There’s the story of their lives, and there’s the story that they’re telling.

-Jenny Zhang

These girls are holding on to the last shred of delusion, which is that they can truly be anything they want to be. I say that and it sounds so dark and cynical. Of course you can be whoever you want to be, but you can’t control what the world does to you. These girls have almost hit their limit of being discouraged. There’s a specter of who these girls grow up to be, and that specter is narrating these stories.

-Jenny Zhang in interview here