Fun Times at Skidmore College, Number 26

Picture this: a boy. A small boy with small legs, and hands, a small boy with round brown eyes, and dark skin. Picture a boy with straight hair down to the roots of his forehead, with a dirty white t-shirt too large for his malnourished body. Picture him with shorts, blue shorts, and no shoes, barefoot, his toes caressing, thrusting, into the dirt. Picture in the background a hut, and a dirt trail; with water on the ground, and a mist in the air. Picture the tropics, picture southern Asia, and picture a soccer ball, dirtied by the surroundings, and his hand, his taut stubby digits, with grit gleaming behind each fingernail, gripping that ball. Picture his face, flexing not one muscle, not one nerve twitching, picture his mouth, not smiling, completely strait, with a lack of expression so painfully expressive of hardship and poverty. Picture him staring back at you—look him in the eyes —

Picture his mother, bent over double, slaving over a machine twice her size, wheezing breaths into the striking, stabbing assault of steel chains and blades, in a warehouse filled with women her age, all of them slaving. Picture the pearls of sweat accumulating on her forehead, organizing a race down the golden cheeks. Listen to the sound of the buzzing of the engines, the hum and whistle of the needles oscilating, stitching, embroidering, at such a rate. Picture her pudgy stubs of fingers, which she has given to her son, slipping, weaving serendipitously in a pattern of floral design, dancing in tantric motion, shadowboxing around the machine, fingering the needle through the labyrinth of cloth, between nails. Picture the possibility, the inevitability of injury. Imagine the slow and reticulating droplets of heavily oxygenated plasma, bright red, alive red, seeping out of a small wound. Watch it grow and increase in velocity. Imagine the disparate difference in atmospheric pressure outside from the vein, pushing the blood onto the floor of the skin.

Picture the atmosphere, the silent invisible fumes which she breathes in every second of her working life, smell the dust in the air, the soot, close your mouth as you feel the contaminants in the factory; the asbestos, the carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, dirt, grime, bacteria, spores, tetanus. Picture the stalagmites and crystal formations of noxious fumes, lazy breeze wandering through the grotto of machine and flesh. Listen to her throat, heaving through cotton balls stuck in her aorta, listen to the sounds coming from her mouth. And now, while you have this in mind, picture the boy, still staring back at you, not moving, because it's a freeze frame, standing in front of his hut, gripping that soccer ball between his palm charred with dirt and the side of his white shirt, caked in perspiration, and the ball is stretching the shirt a little, and he's grasping it like nothing else, like it's everything. Now look back at the mother, body bobbing in and out, cyclically, dovening religiously, chanting a prayer, making magic with her fingers, now stare back at the boy, now back at the mother, and finally back at the boy—

Picture his father, tired and weary, weak and torn, multiple lesions on his sanded skin of rouge. Picture his hands, nothing like that of his wife's or son's, elegant and whispery, vines, pentaphallic metacarpal bone tissue, the spongy palm, plaid creases from twenty-five hour working days, picture his throat, muscles and cartilage straining against the skin, the calculus of hunger, a beard, a five-o'clock shadow, in the fields, with a cigarette pressed between his lips, sucking for his life, the indignities and delicacies of poverty, with an agricultural tool of some sorts, its hard to make out exactly, but he is kneading it into the dirt, into the soil, where trees will someday spring up from this very dirt, the very dirt that he is plowing, combing, stapling, bruising, abusing, blistering, soothing the ground with his—

Picture them all, a matrix of romance and love, at the table, the mother repeatedly scolding and hitting the young boy, because you need to wash yourself up for dinner, because that is what romance is, romance is poverty, and grime, its an empty space at a table for four, an empty space at a hand for five, romance is the language of the lonesome, and romance is empty streets, cold winter nights when there are no leaves, romance is a dirty soccer ball, it's sweat and labor in the fields beneath the setting Asian sun, it's a cave of machinery and oil, of women pricking their fingers, romance is cathartic intervals of space time continuum, heaving chests of pain being embraced at the door of your hut, romance is telling your son to clean himself up, and romance is tending to the beaten back of your husband, romance is eating with no food, romance is pollution, covalent bonds of noxious chemoinducive fumes, here in____ romance is alive and well.

About the author:

Josh Kron is twenty years old, and was born and raised in New York, New York. He is currently studying at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. He's been published in Monkey Bicycle, and has work forthcoming in Subterranean Quarterly.