I was born on the Tropic of Cancer. By nature, it embedded within me a sort of sickness for the dramatic. Every act required an exquisite benefit to matter, eventually drying up the desire for a solitary life. Simplicity only beckoned when the lights were turned off; the days were torrid, affairs got lost in the shuffle—and her eyes were always looking away.
I spent time doing cosmic math to make things work, but nature failed me. The vastness of thought became constricted in the throat, with no emotions exiting into existence as the very words died at birth.
Years ago, I was an entertainer. Now, I entertain without knowing. She, a muse, had looked at me with her cool eyes to tell me she didn’t need me, that I was replaceable and perfunctory.
I don’t know if it took months or days but part of me just remembers a street corner and a cigarette, probably not mine, that lay bare in my fingertips while children wrestled their futures and fortunes in front of my eyes.
Suddenly what I had always held true was truer than ever: At the Tropic of Cancer, red is the color born of blood, thickened by sweat and applied on lips to ignite conversations. It differed barely from rays through skin against the sun, and its impact was both deliberate and violent, like paprika against an azure blue sky—and she had weaponized it oh so gracefully.
Our conversations were specific, detailed, written along the walls of our memory to be repeated. The red had bled into every inch of the hippocampus, charting a path into old age.
But age had not graced me with the wisdom necessary to tackle the moment, and soon I found myself in front of a neon-laden bar tended by a young girl with a tattoo of a crab on her neck.
“How would you like to bleed?”
I didn’t understand.
“What would you like to drink?”
Oh. Gin. Cold. On the rocks. With classic movie posters behind her, she became part of the scenery as she poured my salvation. A sleight of hand and suddenly her complexion became of age, her manners suddenly of a grandmother.
“You’re far from home. Do you know how to get back?”
I don’t, I don’t.
On the Tropic of Cancer, I was born. A home I had, a life I had built. And her red had taken it all away.
“I have you. I know where you belong.”
That night, she brought my home to me, with ink embedded in her skin as the sickness had in me for years. This cancerous ink whispered me a tale, “It’s going to be okay. You’re going to be alright.”
Hours later, I stumbled down the street as the sun rose. The ennui of my days had dissipated, and all I suddenly wanted was another glimpse of her neck—though I would forever settle for eyes that looked back at mine.