by Tlotlo Tsamaase

Air prices have risen. Again.

650 degrees, the sun wavers in that summer blue. Few years young *ago* it was big, warm, a bright spot dribbling arcs across the winter blue.

Now. 6 hours left I have of my body. My skin wrinkles; baked earth cracked from the summer drought. The pixel panels line my skin like rash. They peel at the edges. The sunlight falls heavily through the pores. But blood and sunlight are oil and water, mix they do not.

“Close the curtains,” loverboy moans. The bed squeaks as he turns under our love-making sheets.

“Close. The curtains,” I repeat, a staccato whisper. A hummingbird is caged in my ribs. Fast, fast, fast it flaps rushing for a never-coming explosion. Time leaks open a fear-wound I’m afraid to heal: I have to go.

Loverboy, underneath the brown, lovemaking sheets, snores. His body is jaunty. Beneath his skin his bones are wiry. They hurt me.

                              [close the curtains]

But the sunrise is warm, an inviting fire in the skyline. The last time I picked words of his lips [I love you] I failed to put them back. Forget them from my own body would be to peel my skin and wrap it around his eyes [to blind them from my secrets that poison my beauty daily] and leave me naked for the sun to burn.

Dung, shit, mud: the walls encircle us like we’re covered beneath the earth; thatch seals this coffin of ours shut. Cow shit — little hardened poops of cow — I picked, sparse-spread in the Malokogonyane village, and handed to Nkuku and watched her make this heart — hut — of ours.

My hands scale over the knobs of my backbone to refill the finishing sanctioned air contained in my lungs. “5 hours and 55 minutes of air remaining,” says the operator in my mind, “please pay your air bill to receive an oxygen refill.” My hands are wet, my throat is tight. Breathing makes me cough; it forms traffic with the words in my throat.

“I…can’t,” I want to say, “do this anymore.”

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