I am kneeling in the reeds like Narcissus, trying to fall in love with myself, as Echo takes the train into the city with her boyfriend. I close my eyes and see the tangle of people at Penn Station, Echo threading her hand into his and knotting their fingers together. In the river, my reflection floats like a corpse and I press my palm against its skin of silt and silver water. Ripples weave through my fingers like rain and I fist a handful of sun and sky. The pale linen of my dress stained clear and cloudless by the current, my clothes are still damp when I unlock our apartment and Echo does not ask why. She falls asleep on the sofa with her head on my shoulder, swathed in the blue light of the television, and I do not wake her and whisper that this is not a dream, that this cannot be real. Instead, I flick off the film. The screen goes black and I close my eyes before I see us mirrored within it. In another myth, I am Echo. Always returning to someone who cannot love me. In another myth,
Narcissus marries the nymph and they take out a loan to buy a mansion. When they move in, Echo weaves through the hallways and breaks the mirrors in every room, her eyes sealed shut as glass cascades like tears. Narcissus sweeps up the shards and she does not watch. Heart lines carve themselves into his palms as he boxes broken windows and he cradles a sliver of sky between his fingers, his wrist twisted and the glass tilted so the silver does not catch his reflection. How he shutters his lashes at every river while his wife stares into the sun until it blinds. In this myth, rain threads across a seam of sky, and Echo climbs into the attic. She unfolds cardboard and swathes herself in a blue dress that flows like a river. Kneels before another box and opens it to broken mirrors. Her face fragmented, she startles and seals the box with duct tape. Hesitates, then pushes it into a corner to collect dust and goes downstairs. She opens a window and searches for the sun to splinter her vision. Instead, rain ribbons down her cheeks and fractures her features like a reflection in a mirror spidered with cracks. Narcissus stitches their palms together and she lets him. In another myth, Echo loves herself the way she loves Narcissus. In another myth,
Narcissus kneels in the reeds and unlocks his ribcage. He tosses the key over his shoulder and Echo lunges but it falls through her fingers and she fists a handful of sun and sky. Narcissus gives his heart to the boy in the river and watches it sink like a sword into a skin of silt and silver water. Red threads across his palms and Echo unfurls her hands, tries to stitch the open seam between them closed. Instead, light lances her wrists as sun spills across the water like oil and she scries for a story in which Narcissus loves her. In another myth, I am Narcissus, which is to say, I am beautiful and I let myself believe it. I fall in love with a naiad and gift the girl in the river an organ. She runs her fingers across the keys like rain. In another myth, I necklace my hands around the throat of a nymph and her corpse floats like a reflection in the river. How I kneel in the reeds and reweave the same story as I try to fall in love with myself. In this myth,
I am a girl learning to love herself through forgiveness. Dawn slips through the blinds like a ghost and Echo opens her eyes on the sofa. She knits her hand into mine and I let her. We take the train into the city, and in the tangle of people at Penn Station, two girls threaded together like fate. In this myth, I am not beautiful and I let that be okay. Echo's laughter like rain as we sit in the spill of yellow flowers beside the river, we meet the eyes of our reflections and we do not look away.
Ai Li Feng is a lover of language. Entranced by etymology and mesmerized by mythology, she is studying Latin, Ancient Greek, and the works of writers such as Plutarch and Herodotus. She is also in love with the stars, adores the sea, and aches for the sky, wishing for waxen wings like Icarus. The editor-in-chief of Indigo Literary Journal, her work is also forthcoming in the Blue Marble Review and Pollux Journal. Find her on Twitter @ailiwrites.