by Youssef Helmi
It was one of those days, those clear May days, where the clouds are short brush strokes of white, the sky is that one shade of blue, and the water is so clear the world above and below becomes one on the surface. We were walking by the river and we saw ourselves in the water, laughing and living. We saw ourselves, and we stopped and waved and yearned. We wished to be them—what made them better than us?
We knelt closer to them as they knelt closer to us. We should stop, one of us said. She was blonde and pretty and smart and always right. She was so pretty and right, and that made us jealous, so we kissed ourselves and it was cool and wet, and we kissed and kissed, tongue and all, until we became our reflections.
We looked up at her. Why did you stop? we asked. We lamented her betrayal. Join us, join us, join us, we crooned, but she ran. Then we were trapped beneath the surface, left only to eat sunshine and what park-goers would toss in—McDonald’s wrappers, Granny Smith cores, lost affections. We came to crave it; it was delicious.
She came back the next week. She threw in Ritz crackers and her pity, and we so voraciously ate them. Come in, join us, we said. Please, just a little closer, we pleaded. She left, and we wept to mend our broken hearts.
That was last year. We still wait, but there’s only one of us now. The others left long ago to other rivers, streams, brooks, lakes in search of lovers or hope or hopeful lovers. They left, but we remain because we love her, but she doesn’t come. She never comes and the river dries up day by day, threatening to end us.
Today she comes, though. Down the path we see her. We run to her, but we see someone else in her hand, in her heart, so we turn away. It’s been a year. Come out, please, she says. She is kneeling at the bank. You will die, she says, tracing the receding waterline with a finger.
We shake our heads. Join us, we say. We’ll be beautiful together. She’s blonde and smart and still right and so pretty, so pretty we hate her. She stands and leaves, and we try to reach out to feel every inch of her, to caress her with our lips, to smell her happiness again. We try so hard, but we cannot. Beneath the surface we call out for her, but she’ll never come to this river again, and we cry and cry and cry. We cry so much we refill the dying river, rejuvenating it with our sorrow, giving it life with what in us has died.
It’s just one of those days, those clear May days.
Youssef Helmi is a junior at Florida State University where he studies Creative Writing, Political Science, and Arabic. His flash piece “More” was featured in Issue 17 of Cleaver Magazine. When not writing, he enjoys playing NBA 2K, watching Studio Ghibli movies, and musing over the musical merits of death metal.