• Elysse Shirley

Life Cycle of a Black Plum

Updated: May 9, 2019

By Elysse Shirley | TW: contains mildly sensitive descriptions |

I can feel myself



(The juice of a black plum is just as sweet as you’d expect it to be)

I can feel myself



I can feel the sharp veins drying out and becoming sour.

I can feel my skin go numb and my teeth begin to rot.

(The flesh of a black plum is no sweeter than its juice)

I was not always this way. Sour and decaying. Wrinkled not with time but with experience, juice leaking from windows (locked tightly and barred).

I was not always dying.

But this is not to say that you killed me. And this is not to say that you didn’t. Because what you had done-- what we had done, together, almost innocently-- was something that was already dead from the start.

I remember how cold your house was and how I wanted to stay in the living room. I remember following you up the stairs and sitting with you on your bed. I remember not wanting to be there anymore. I remember thinking about the half-open door. I remember its stare: teasing and hypothetical. I felt like a child wanting something physically attainable but psychologically impossible to reach. I was trapped in my mind and suffocated in this incredibly dense moment in time. I was underwater twelve feet deep, unbreathing, unmoving, the chipped-paint once-white door frame an escape of which that felt more like an oxygen-deprived mirage than anything real. It was hot so you opened the window (for the first time these two realities collided in all of their universes and doubts). I sat up on my knees and looked out of it, not being able to smell the comforting coolness it would have brought me. All I could smell was warm mixed with shapes like curved squares coloured a shade of blue that makes me too sick to think about. I lived it once (isn’t that enough?). I stood up and washed my hands in your sink. I did not recognise myself in the mirror (I wish that I had looked for longer, and tried to name who was staring back at me). You were still lying there when I appeared again in your doorframe. I told you that it was getting late and I had to get home. You said okay (I waited for more, but that was it) and did not make any move to get up. I turned towards your staircase and felt the wooden floorboards new under my feet. I felt their unevenness and their years under my weight and I made sure to tread as softly as I could. I did not want to be a disturbance. I grabbed the railing gently and stepped only on the most worn parts of the stairs-- the parts that have been slightly dented and warped from use (a childish attempt at disappearance). As the second boot was snugly on my foot I hear your heaviness descend the steps and stop at the third from the bottom. I smile lucently but I don’t think you noticed anything on the other side. You watch me put my sweater on. My scarf, my coat, my gloves. We were two white sheets on opposite clothes lines dancing (mine stained red, yours a faint grey) as we hugged. I didn’t feel your arms wrap around me even though I’m sure they did (I’m sure they did). Your bare feet balance on the threshold of your front door, your toes a fleshy overhang. You do not walk me to the bus stop. It’s fine because I didn’t want you to. I wave but turn before waiting to see you wave back. But I turn just in time to see your door shut.

I knew that something had been taken from me that day (the day I claim to have died). Or maybe I did not know. Actually, I know I most definitely did not know. But things did not feel right. They did not feel good. I still felt underwater and unbreathing. I could not resolve “why”. Since that day, my veins had started turning black and every night I would wake up to find my mouth full of my own rotting teeth, only to have them all grow back by morning. A perceptive cycle.

Why didn’t I speak?

(My mouth full of teeth)

I could’ve said something.

If only I had just stood up...

Spitting patches of crude smelling black and red and blue I see now

That my mouth had been sealed shut.

As soon as I muttered that unsettled “sure” thick dark sap leaked from my eyes and burnt my tongue. I shut my mouth, allowing it to adhere my lips closed and staple my arms and legs to the sheets. I found remnants of it on the backs of my knees, behind my ears, in my hair (it was hiding in the places you did not touch. You see, it cannot get to you).

But I am not dead. I am no longer inert and unspeaking. I am no longer a black plum tree, thorned and rotting.

I can feel myself


Away from you

And up.

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