what comes after
when we realised the sun was going to die, we started breathing differently. we inhaled and exhaled slowly until our lungs got used to new patterns. then we started hanging up our memories in the sky in the hope that the sun would take them and make a new life for us. i sent up memories of you while you gave away memories of me, and we let those float up into the atmosphere.
but nothing worked. our memories came back, flattened. all the corners were creased. i couldn’t remember the sound of your heart beating even when, in that moment, it was all i wanted to listen to. we stayed outside for days, and i taped each memory onto your skin until they flowed back into your veins. you did the same for me. but i still woke up, lungs bruised. i felt like i’d lost something.
it was almost the end when i started noticing little differences. the sunlight felt sharper than normal and i squinted as we walked to my front door. even the photons were refusing to tell me what to do next, so i led you inside. we were lying on my bed when i asked you whether we were in heaven. the sun was slowly setting, light edging away from the corners of the curtain next to us. you said, it feels like it, it feels something like it. i closed my eyes then decided to open them again, watched as that familiar warmth edged away from me.
in the dim light of tomorrow, i wanted to be someone else. i wanted to be invincible. i wanted to be brave, like you used to say i was. i imagined a secret in the glass panes and the concrete walls that could keep us alive. i imagined the secret being all ours. and then i imagined that my heart was nuclear just like the sun’s. that our only light was the moon and that we collected new memories, thick and waterproof, and held them above our heads when it rained.
then i came back, saw you lying there with your eyes closed and breathing so quietly. i said your name, and you shifted a little with the sound. on the day our lives finally went out of sync, there was still enough time for me to whisper, goodbye.
Emma Shi studied Classics at Victoria University of Wellington. She was the winner of the National Schools Poetry Award 2013 and the Poetry NZ Prize 2017. She posts her writing at facebook.com/emmlexx.