1. We are rocking on a boat, my friend and I. The boat is in a harbor. My friend is talking about Jung again.
I am so tired of Jung, I say. You haven’t even read him, my friend says, correctly. Sure, but his fingerprints are all over everything! This boat! My body! More likely to be on your soul, says my friend.
Well, I have been told I have a very shapely soul, like an hourglass, like my body, and I am running out of time, even though we are still very young.
We are not very young. We are marching at breakneck speed through our 30’s, my friend says. Well, we are younger than Jung, I say, my voice a slack halyard.
Jung is dead, he says, and that is the youngest age there is. We are younger than that keyhole into another galaxy, I say, pointing to a smudge in the sky.
Sure, my friend says, smiling like a man on a boat wearing white teeth and boat shoes. Sure.
2. I have been steering windward, luffing towards Bethlehem while my friend discusses slouching there.
The boat is anchored so I am only steering myself. My bladder is filling with champagne.
Do it off the side of the boat, my friend says. It’s dark. No one will see. I think about this while the champagne pressurizes inside me. I cannot pee into a world I do not know. I say. Think of all the rough beasts below.
The beasts of the sea are smooth, no? My friend says.
Have you ever moved your hand the wrong way over scales? I ask. Tiny shining knives. My second greatest fear is letting go, I say. I didn’t pee for 36 hours as a two-year-old. I say.
What is your first greatest fear? He asks. Falling into the sky, I say.
3. The sky over the boat is hollow tonight. The moon sets: an orange glob over the trees. Without the moon, the sky vibrates lightless, mocks me with its vacuum mouth.
The boat rocks, or is it tipping? and I begin to fall into the sky. It’s happening! I say, reaching my slippery hands to my friend.
What is? He says, from very far away. I’m falling into the sky!
Impossible, you wouldn’t get past the Van Allen Belts alive, he says. And then he says something else but I can’t hear it over the roar of the wind.
I have luffed so much I cannot direct my fall. Windward windward windward, the wind cries.
Wind war, I hear, and I am even more frightened because I am not ready for battle. I didn’t remember my pocket knife, and I am wearing only a bikini and sweatpants.
4. Where are all your daggers?You will need them for this fight and flight, the moon taunts me from the underbelly of the earth.
Tiny shining knives – I think of fish scales and wish I had a tail with which to rudder and steer.
I am falling like Rome, a colossal tumble that everyone can see.
The first constellation I pass is a dipper. You mean you are the fall of America, says the dipper. Obviously, I reply, flying by the dipper without even drinking from its depths.
I don’t mean to undo Orion’s belt, but I do. There are so many belts in the sky and none of them anchor me. I taste all the leather but do not love any of the belt loops it is meant to slide between.
This is my third greatest fear: falling out of love.
5. You have to fall in before you can fall out, sings the moon. I cannot believe how cruel the moon is tonight, like a stubbed toe, pulsing with red resentment.
I have fallen deeper than you, you cold medallion. You circle love. I dive in.
You dive in, but like I, you still do not show your dark side. You keep always your back to the wall and your eyes on the door and your hand on the knife in the garter under your skirt.
I’m wearing sweatpants, I mutter, as I pass a Starlink.
I want to change the world, but it is spinning 1000 miles per hour now that I am no longer on it. I cannot catch even the debris in its orbit. A red Tesla convertible door floats by and I curse Elon Musk for the 10,000th time.
You think you’re better than he is, whispers the moon, but you have no idea the debris you produce. We never see the halos of our trash, she says, shivering in her own meniscal light. Plus, Musk is going to provide a high bandwidth network to the world. What have you provided to the world?
6. I try not to take the moon to heart but I realize from listening to my now ceased pulse that I love intermittently, like a moon, like a firefly, like a pulse. The difference between loves the amount of space between each phase or blink or beat.
That’s not true, Venus, my only ally so far, says. You love like a wave and when you draw back, you reveal more of what was always there: fish bones, some shells, a child’s red shovel. Seaweed. Silt. Plus, you polish sharp edges.
A love that reveals what it consumes, I say, but who reveals it? Who lays bare the sea? The moon, says Venus.
7. The seven sisters shimmer in the corner of my eye. I do not look at them directly because of how shy they are, but when I turn my face they whisper: be careful.
Of what? I ask. There are rough beasts in the sky. They say. We are trapped within one.
But I know Taurus is just a tired bull who’s been running since his stars were born.
It’s okay. I tell the sisters. He won’t rage and hurt you. He is old now. No, they say. You are always wrong about age. What it means.
8. The sisters chorus: You meet a boy who is a man who is a boy. When he presses you against a bed, you struggle and say “why are you doing this?” “Because I want to. because I can.” He says.
After, you explain you didn’t say yes. In bed. In Sunday morning light. He is frightened. But are you internalizing this? You ask. You cannot treat people this way. He reaches for you again. He finds the soft spot you have for him and men like him. You say yes this time. You want the story to have a happy ending. Doesn’t yes feel different? You whisper, moving over him. No. He says.
It takes a month for the fist of your body to unclench and let him fully in. By that time, you are waterless and raw. By that time he has raped you again. Your doctor is worried about the red circle of his hand around your neck. She asks three times if it was consensual. You say yes. Because it was, wasn’t it? Some of it?
He says maybe you came into his life so you can polish his sharp edges. He says this because he knows you think it. You think it because you have polished other men and this man needs polishing. He is scaled and sharp and cuts you when you touch him the wrong way. Tiny shining knives.
The summer lasts forever and you wither on his arm. You feel small with him, even when he is calling you beautiful. Even when he is calling you. When the calls become less frequent, you hurt all over. His finger prints from that first night rise to the surface. You scrub your skin raw to get them off. You are angry. You are anger. You hold a mirror up to his face but there is no reflection. You yell at him but he cannot hear you. He has never heard you. Neither your no nor your yes. He smiles past you and you are left with only the wounds he gave. He forgets your name. He forgets your scent and your tightness which he took. He is just a boy after all. He was only playing. But so were you. The sisters finish. You said love when what you meant was pity. was fear. And he knew. And you knew. And you kept walking into shadows with him anyway. You kept welcoming his next terrible touch.
The sisters cry for me. Taurus cries for me. I almost cry for me but I am distracted by the terror of it all. A phone rings and it is the man. A phone rings and it is the boy. I do not answer. I do not answer because I do not know what reminds him of me when he remembers or what erases me when he forgets. I have never been treated like a light switch before. It makes me flicker.
I wonder what Jung would say about flickering. About rape. My friend on the boat yells, it’s important you call it that, say it. Say I Was Raped.
I don’t want to. So I say, what kind of flower is that, even though I am looking at a crack in the sidewalk of the milky way.
What if the man doesn’t know he raped me? I ask. Venus is quiet. The sisters are holding each other. He does. Says the moon. You told him. He listened. And you, having never been listened to, thought this was Positive Movement Forward. For him, I say. No. For you. Says the moon.
But the cost benefit analysis still didn’t add up, I say. No. Says the moon. It was ultimately a bad ROI. That’s what he would say, I say. He wasn’t wrong about everything, the moon says. We look at each other and almost smile, the moon and I. It’s not funny, but it is true, and truth doesn’t hurt. Not if you’ve been looking for it behind every question. Behind every flick of a forked tongue.
9. I get drunk on stardust while my friend on the boat drinks champagne. The service cuts out now and then, but he helps me figure out What Happened.
The timeline. The strange pieces. How much was fear. How much was affection. How much was Stockholm Syndrome.
Probably almost all of it, says my friend.
I decide, drunk, to call the man. I tell him my story, again. But in bullet points. He is stunned and hangs up. By the next conversation he has had time to become angry.
You are saying these things because I no longer want you, he says.
I am saying them because they are true.
That’s your opinion, says the man.
Rape is not an opinion, I say. And then. Goodbye.
He does not respond. Elon’s Tesla parts float by like broken teeth.
I hang up on his silence and return him to what he was – an absence I wanted to fill.
The starlinks collect around Draco’s neck like diamonds. I find this gauche. It reminds me of the man. I scream. I sharpen my voice into a point.
This is the oldest story: I am always trying to kill a dragon and the dragon always turns out to be a broken man, and so I take it back, the knife, my tongue, and stammer sorry into his tears, which freeze into ice shivs.
He uses them to cut out my heart. It drips with jewels in his dragon hand like a pomegranate, and we all know what that means – one of us is made of stars and the other one of us is forever.
10. Getting back to earth is harder than I think. Gravity is a difficult horse to lasso. I string all the belts together like a rope ladder and force my body down.
My friend is waiting for me to burn up in the Van Allen Belts. He yells, I am waiting to watch you burn in the Van Allen Belts, in a way that sounds nearly cheerful.
I made them into a ladder, I yell. Anyway, I don’t have time to die yet! After all, we are in our 30s and there is so much to do.
I pass all my friends in the sky. I kiss the spires of every star. Goodbye. I love you. Venus beats like a human heart as I pass and I am in her womb for a moment. The sisters reach their arms out in blessing.
I near the boat. I tether my belt rope ladder to the boat’s ladder, which my friend, in his boat shoes and beautiful smile, has lowered.
I tumble from myself and into his arms. They are steady and sure and very much made of flesh.
How are you? He says.
Fearless. I say. I think my three greatest fears burned off me as I climbed down. I shake my head to feel the earth wind again and a shimmer of space dust spreads from me like a supernova halo.
You’ve taken a little of it back with you, says my friend.
Falling into the sky fundamentally changes one, I suppose, I say.
Absolutely, my friend says. Jung would call this self-realization.
Jung would, I say, with a smile. With a tear. With a long, shuddering sigh.
Leanne Drapeau (she/her) is a teacher and writer from Connecticut. She is an MFA candidate at Randolph College in Virginia. She has both poetry and prose in or forthcoming from B O D Y, Typehouse, The American Journal of Poetry, Booth, and Sierra Nevada Review.