Proximity feels foreign and out of place in my mouth, as I speak it softly a few times
the way the teacher says to do, just to get a sense for it. And the class sounds
like a snaky field of anklegrass in spring, like we’re all trying out our tongues.
After the eighth time, I get this taste for what I want to say, which is how
proximity can sometimes be like a compass, broken and out of whack,
so the needle’s aimed at you all the time, so no matter where you’re headed
it points to where you’ve been, because proximity’s one of those weird words
that can mean the opposite of what it means. Like how you can be
sitting-at-the-same-table close to someone and never be further apart.
Or how you can be all the way across town working out in your garage,
but it’s like you’re in some dim-lit restaurant booth with her hand
in your hand, and you swear the warmth is there in your fingertips.
So distance isn’t just the space between points, it’s the space between hearts,
and sometimes, for some people, close is a long way off, far is almost touching.
(first published in Cicada,
originally written for the YA novel-in-verse A Boy Called Mo)