Strawberry Milk

    It’s five a.m., and I am walking home. I am thinking about the cool air in my nostrils and on my arms. It smells like tea and flowers, a soft crispness. This is unlike the fall crispness in the early morning, when my joints are creaky and I can smell death in the lingering fog, and the dew is heavier and heavier each lowering degree of temperature. Now it is getting lighter and lighter as the plants suck up the dew into their spines and sit taller and taller. They suck up the cool air, and it gets hotter and lighter. They absorb the darkness into their tiny seeds and buds and shoots.
    I smell the pop of each opening bud. When I walk under the dark shape of that tree that arches its body out over the sidewalk, I can smell all three thousand and sixty-two of its falling petals. They are falling all at once in that moment, and I catch and count each one up my nose. I smell their soft, translucent flesh. The pink of the skin smells like the baby inside the mother’s protruding stomach. It is not the powdery clean smell of a born baby, and it is not the clinical, paranoid smell of a mother’s hormones, but it is the darker and earthier smell of limbo. It is the smell of deep, clear blue lightening slowly and softly.
    By now my nose is full of these petals, tiny heart shapes that get cut out from some big piece somewhere, like a million valentine hearts for a million lovers’ nostrils. The pollen is their one fatal flaw, one calling card of imperfection, and I sneeze them out onto my arm. Twenty-six splayed down the length of my arm. Each one is a letter somehow I know, and they spell out the plane of limbo.
    On this alphabet map, I’ve spotted myself. I’m in the midst of the uncut petals, when they are still one giant fabric. It ripples lightly under my weight, like a liquid trampoline. Everything is the color of the strawberry milk that my mom used to keep in the fridge. Well, not as strawberry milk. It’s only after I would squeeze out three tablespoons of the neon syrup into the nine ounces of semi-rich one-percent white milk, then stirred the cup frantically for forty-three seconds would the strawberry milk fabric be ready for expansion and exploration. But first, the Mickey Mouse curly straw is ceremoniously pulled out of the dingy white drawer by the cup cabinet, and, while he is not my favorite curly straw character, he’s the only one I remember, so it gets dipped into the strawberry milk. As the pink liquid turns purple in the translucent blue straw, Mickey waves his chunky white gloves in the ancient incantation of transformation. Both the strawberry milk and I ready for communion. Finally I travel down the curly plastic straw, gradually forgetting how to count the bubbles and how to measure the volume of displacement of my submerging body. I remember only of the soft current swirling in the milk, pulling me along with the clockwise stir of the spoon around the pink plane.
    I inhale as much of the soft pink as possible, until I feel my body so full and round, it starts to sink deeper into the fabric plane. With such similar materiality between me and the milk, I’m barely corporeal anymore, except for the smell of strawberry milk and the soft whitish pink that it gives to my skin now. But I cannot tell where my skin starts and stops really. I just know it’s got this lush pinkishness, and it’s soft and it flows in tiny ripples along the plane of limbo. 
    The plane of limbo goes on forever, goes as deep as forever, until it does not. Until it is forgotten, and the white drawer with the metal handle that housed the curly straws gets stuck shut with the humid expansion of time, and one-percent milk is one percent too many. Until I feel myself being contained by the faceted glass cup, and my pink flesh of limbo gets assigned to word and measure. 
    The milky plane gets assigned to different body parts. It forms two small breasts under a striped shirt that I notice for the first time, and I feel the plane of limbo congeal into fat and hair and substantiated existence. I can’t fit in the cup in this new solid form, so it breaks into shards, and I have to carefully spill over them and into the forgetful present. For fifteen years I learn to count the ounces of milk and the volume of syrup that make strawberry milk. I learn to spell new words to demarcate one body against another, and I eventually forget what strawberry milk tastes like.
    It’s five o’five a.m., years and minutes later, and the falling petals fill my nose with the taste of strawberry milk. I’m laughing at some point in the past, and the milk is oozing out my nose from the pink bowels of an unborn me. The demarcated parts of my body start getting snipped up into the tiny petal hearts by the cool spring air. My feet are dissolving into the petals on the sidewalks. Then I feel my shins start to go, then the rest of my legs, then up up up my body I fall apart. I smell myself filling my nostrils, and I fill my senses with deep, clear blue slowly, softly lightening into milky pink.