“Embody” by Brenna Kischuk

At standard pressure water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. 100 degrees Celsius. 373 Kelvin. The bathwater is 102 degrees Fahrenheit. 39 degrees Celsius. 312 Kelvin.

I scrub my skin with a mixture of honey and coffee grains. She always had the softest skin. I scoop a fingerful into my mouth and want it to taste like Tuesdays in bed but it’s rough, bitter, acrid.

Only when the water is this hot do I think about her.

If I can get to California by June I’ll see the grunion run and let them slip through my fingers.

How I love: a freckle in the crease of his/her right hip.

Chin on my knees, I stare at the place where white tiles meet white walls. They don’t match.

The water moves forward and back with only the flexion of my big toe.

Like when you type the word just instead of does, or want instead of need.

Sweat is 99% water but I taste salt. Different salt than I add to the bath – white, potash and maybe pink.

I pour lavender oil into the water and shut my eyes. The oil is her skin and the lavender her taste.

I touch myself the way she would. Just the basics. I know these walls are thin.

The soap he started using because of her and I started using because of him, but, really, it’s because of her too.

I’m dizzy, lightheaded and I should get out but I know if I add cool water and sit up a few more inches I’ll find relief.

He says I can only cheat on him with her and only when he’s away.

In the streets of Barcelona I watched my father feed pigeons from the palm of his hand.

I need more water.

He climbs in. Water slips between our skin and the awkward display of appendages. My head kinks to one side under the faucet. There really is only room for one, but she’d fit.

It’s because of her I let him see me this way at all.

How light would I have to be to float in this space?

The body reacts to heat with sweat, increased breath, rash, blister, melting and death.

We sat in the backseat holding lit cigarette lighters until we knew they were hot enough. Metal on skin, it only hurt for a breath before –

Mine took nearly three months to heal. Hers, two weeks.

If Ophelia were a man: Melancholy.  A woman, Erotomania. Dead: John Everett Millais, Oil on Canvas, 1852.

The bathwater is 72 degrees Fahrenheit. 22 degrees Celsius. 295 Kelvin. His chest hair rises against my back and tiny goose bumps form on his arms. He kisses my shoulder, leaves without speaking.

Bits of what must be mold hide in the corners and grout. I pretend it’s dirt. Next time I’ll scrub harder.

He can’t handle cool water like she could.

This time last year leaves crunched like dead bugs beneath my feet.

As long as I stay submerged things have balance.

The lines of my body are smooth as Botticelli’s women. I remember staring at a woman staring at a woman staring back at her.

Pigeon toed and knock-kneed my thighs don’t touch. My feet are easy to like, long, slender and graceful, like my father’s.

The bathwater empties in gulps. I towel off and remove three stray coffee grinds from behind my ear. I stay inside until the mirror defogs, every last drop of moisture having left the room and slide into bed with him.

It’s ninety-three degrees outside.

My mother said the key to love is in the silences. When I asked what she meant she didn’t answer.

More fiction at Used Furniture.


  1. I really loved this.

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