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Love Burns

Harriet Castro

Summer, 2022

I awake above the duvet. Hot air weighs my lungs and sweat oils my nose. A night of relentless terror dreams left me fragile, so I’m disappointed to wake up alone.

With closed eyes, I imagine his slim, lanky body leaving my bedroom, crooked and unsteady from the low, slanted ceiling, tip-toeing so as not to wake me.

I peel my sticky skin from the sheets. As I drag myself to the kitchen, my short legs shudder to life.

Days of piled recycling and unwashed dishes loom miserably around the sink, but the warm kiss of July's sun forgives the disordered space, blessing it with vivid colour.

A cluttered clothes dryer fills the gap between him and me. His yellow scruffy hair shines through the cracks of the laundry. I watch him gaze out the window at the heart of the furnace, greyish, bony smoke dancing from his cigarette.

He turns to me with eyes puffy from sleep. “Sorry, I just couldn’t stay in there anymore,” he sighs, defeatedly.

I shuffle over to the chair opposite him, weave between his gangly legs and settle. Our limbs slot together innately. I focus on his face; his neatly proportioned, boyish features are a heavenly refuge. His blue eyes, glowing hauntingly on pale skin, reveal his mother's Danish blood. Stubbing out his cigarette, he folds his hand into mine.

Persistent heat chokes every crevice of the room, melting our bodies into the chair cushions. We eat breakfast around the table and talk about music with fond eyes and tender hearts. Despite our differing tastes, our mutual value and respect for music is a common ground.

Music had provided similar escapism in our adolescence.

He leaves the room briefly and returns with my guitar and a grin, resting the instrument against the fridge. He goes over to the kitchen sink, holds a tea towel beneath the tap, then drapes it over his shoulders and returns to the seat by the window.

His spine curves instinctively in the chair like a sunflower with a head greater than its stem. Cradling the polished body of my Fender, he begins to pick the tune of Guy Clark’s ‘LA Freeway.’ His lips sew the song like a master seamster.

I drop to his feet weakly and wrap around his leg, observing his every move in wonderment. His radiant face crinkles passionately as he guides me through the song he oh-so-treasures. I close my eyes to be closer to his words.

Afterwards, we turn our focus to the parched world outside. The view from the window remains orderly. Decades of moss flourish on the sloped, weathered tiles. Beige-brick houses with odd wooden extensions stare back at me, their mature faces wise and expressionless.

I’ve watched seasons come and pass alone by this window, and each season met a new me. In my low periods, I searched for meaning. The world was in a political and climate crisis, so my words seemed meaningless. But in kinder times, I allowed the rare spurts of inspiration to carry me, inviting my pointless words to flow, and despite my harsh critique, I produced sombre but honest bodies of text.

For now though, he and I simply congregate around this window to witness the world burn.

We stay stagnant in the kitchen and complain about the weather until the day closes. As the air cools, birds erupt in their usual chorus and critters scuttle out into the dregs of daylight. He and I remain engrossed in each other, grateful for the colder, fresher breaths.


I still secretly listen to ‘LA Freeway’ when he's not around.

Harriet likes to collect zines, journal, and is pretty good at burying her head in the sand. She wants to kiss Billie Joe Armstrong and her friends inspire her every day. She writes to clear her mind.

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