catching tears

Christina Pan

                                                                                                                                        after guillermo del toro

i once read that if you catch the tears off somebody’s eyelashes mid-flight, their cells,

salt-stained, fuse with yours like the blood of twins. sometimes i practice with rain droplets but

they always disappear too quickly, clear beads staining nowhere. you like reading david mitchell

with his deus ex machina doubles but i prefer fairytales, the two girls hip-joined toothless

&mouth-dry, baby teeth spilling out a trail to sea. maybe we’d be pirates sailing the ocean, you

with a golden tooth & me with a matching peg leg. the first time i caught your tears my hands

shrunk for there was no water in them, only salt dotting skin. later i learned & set my hands in

rain before your eyelashes. when i catch your tears i bottle them before they disappear on my

fingers, glass vial & cork stopper. later i crack the bottle, split fist bloody on glass. twenty eight

grams, your tears are, the air around me a trance, becoming nimbus. no—it is a deadweight, a

plummet, drawing down its harbor beside the heart. i bought you a saltwater fish for your last

birthday & you put it in clear water & it was only after the tank became thick with death that

your tears fell into the water, the salt peppering floating scales. when the salt stops you no longer

have eyelashes & i no longer catch your tears. the ancient egyptians, i later read, used salt to

embalm their dead to dry out the body. maybe the pirates met them one day in the nile, a

toothless one with a glint of gold & a one-legged one with pegs, together plundering a jeweled

sarcophagus. they’d drag the tomb out to sea during droughts, out of monsoon season to keep the

body dry. catacombs still-moving underground, cracked salt & glass of your tears mixing on my

skin. i am the rain & you are the salt on bones below the ground. i dig into the earth with a

prayer, only to catch nothing on my fingers. with tomorrow’s rain thundering behind bathroom

blinds, i will wake, won’t i, to my cells replacing yours, water drowning out tears. when you add

water to a solute, it is supposed to diffuse, spreading the concentration of salt, creating a solution.

but i have never known science for truth—your tears were never supposed to be possible. later i

settle for a life with too much water, shallow & wide, for just enough salt to make a little sea.

Christina Pan's short stories and poems appear or are forthcoming in Eunoia Review, Vagabond City Lit, and Interstellar Literary Review. They live in New York City.