1001 Nights

BLONDES

They are click-bait beautiful, my boyfriend and his other girl. Movie star innocence: his blue eyes, her yellow hair. On loop, I watch them dance in the school gymnasium, gold light sloshing at their ankles. How he smiles when she trips, tottering like a doe in her shiny stilettos. How she falls into him like rain, their mouths pressed together in osmosis. The video—sent to me at midnight, the ring of the notification unbearable—illuminates the bleached square of my bedroom, my face cleansed by the blue screen.

BATH

When I wake up, my boyfriend has replied to the photo I sent him: ur so hot <3 <3 <3 Yes. But I’m not blonde. His sanitized desire disgusts me, his commercialism.

The nude I sent is Warhol bright, my head cut off by a gap of movie theatre black. I am sitting in my bathtub, porcelain surrounding me like a confessional. It is the first time he sees me naked. My lips bitten blushed. My curls splayed like limbs.

I wanted my boyfriend to point out the tiny zit blooming like a lotus at the tip of my left eyebrow. I wanted my boyfriend to ask for teeth, for a floating blowdryer in the thin water. I wanted my boyfriend to suck the damp from my hair, piles of ebony in his mouth. I wanted my boyfriend to see my nude body and send me a picture of an orchid plant. The buds sealed tighter than fate. Blooming at dawn, unwitnessed.

My fingers, fat raindrops on my screen. haha, glad you liked it. Six minutes later, a reply: u kept me up all night 😉 I smile. Better.

ORIGIN

The other girl has a warm, melt-in-your-mouth name like Anne or Madeline. She is the virgin weeping in every church, so clean she glows. My boyfriend cannot pronounce my name: Scheherazade, queen of myth. When he fucks me, I listen to the word flop and fracture between his teeth, syllables warped by desire.

In her fairytale, Scheherazade saves her own life. For 1,001 nights, she keeps her murderous husband at bay by telling story after story. Sinbad’s Seven Voyages. Aladdin and the Lamp. I pose with my knees spread at the foot of my bed. I pose topless in low-cut jeans. I pose with nothing on but my boyfriend’s letterman. Scheherazade, queen of FaceTuning the acne out from her forehead. Now, it takes a different kind of magic to keep men drunk.

SULTANA

I wear a white sundress to my boyfriend’s house, skirt fanned like a lampshade. This is my boyfriend’s favorite dress: he tells me white pops with my skintone, but we both know he likes the color because it makes him feel like he’s fucking a virgin. Makes him feel like he’s the one doing the fucking. Laced sandals tied into a bow. Gold clips on each side of my head. Ingenue curls. Gloss sticky as rosewater, clinging to the edges of my lips.

I press him flush against his refrigerator door. Smooth, cold: an ice rink. When I kiss his jawline, I pretend I’m mouthing stories: once upon a time there was a girl in a tower/a castle/an ocean, she was very beautiful/innocent/terrifying, etc, etc. His eyes squint shut like he’s facing an angel, six wings and covered in eyes unblinking. What’s her name, I want to ask. Instead, I bite the buttons on his shirt and pull.

PALETTE

My boyfriend likes action movies: bright bullets and women tied to chairs. Dusty lashes. Blondes blondes blondes. I mirror his gasps and curl into his chest; he is bedazzled by collapsing buildings while I write grocery lists in my head. I want to watch a movie where nothing happens. No car chases, no confessions: just color after color, buttery yellows and heavy pinks. Smooth as sunset, the light heavy like a boy’s arms.

But I’m no auteur, so instead I squirt lilac paint into my navel. I smear rubies along my thighs. Teal for my breasts. Kelly green for my sides. Plum across my cheeks. Coral on my eyelids. My body is the film of oil slicked across the road, a psychedelic haze. I take the photo naked on a bed of towels, knees pressed together. The color obliterates my skin.

At 1 AM: wow babe, u really know how to keep it interesting :p <3

C(H)ORDS

Scheherazade’s husband kills a new wife every dawn. I used to wonder if she could see her death from her window. Silk nooses hanging from the willow trees just beyond the glass. Silk nooses brushing against one another like wind chimes, ringing soft in the night.

From my boyfriend’s window I can see his mailbox hanging open. After sex he falls asleep shuddering, leaving me to map out constellations on his creamy stucco ceiling. I am afraid to leave the bed. Afraid I’ll trip on his floor, on the long blonde hairs that glint and glow like wires. Did Scheherazade fear every night would be her last, counting her breaths as the stars dripped across the sky? Hoping she is enough, just for one more day?

Maybe the next wife would be a one-syllable name, sweet as morphine. Maybe the next wife would be better.

1001 NIGHTS

ONCE UPON A TIME there was an unswallowable girl who stuck to everything she touched, her hands slimy and viscous.

ONCE UPON A TIME there was a king in a house in the suburbs: white fence white dog white face.

ONCE UPON A TIME there was a yellow-haired girl who couldn’t walk in stilettos, and her clumsiness made her lovely.

ONCE UPON A TIME my boyfriend wore deep blue sweaters and kissed the soft skin of my inner arm.

ONCE UPON A TIME lapis lazuli had been worth more than gold.

ONCE UPON A TIME the king choked on the sticky girl, her body lodged in the lining of his throat.

ONCE UPON A TIME Scheherazade refused to die.

I WANTED THIS TO BE A LOVE STORY but the most I know of love is the best angle to open your legs, how to bite your lip for the camera until it bleeds.

SUNRISE

I strip my bed, then my body. Standing on my mattress, I tie a noose of my sheets and drape it around my neck, securing the loose end to the ceiling fan. In the light of my bedroom, the fabric shines like silk. I tighten the noose. I can still breathe, but not without being reminded of its starched grip. In the photograph, my tongue dangles from my mouth like a lollipop: drama. I giggle as I hit send.

12 AM: the pulsing dots of the chat thread, he’s typing. I leave my phone on silent, and when I fall asleep, I am dreamless.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

About the author

Yasmeen Khan is a writer and student living in Spring, Texas. Her work has been recognized by the National YoungArts Foundation, the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Adroit Prizes, Best of the Net, and more. She has work published or forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, The Rumpus, Peach Magazine, and Sooth Swarm Journal, among others. She was born in 2004.

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