My Cells, My Snakeskin

by Jasmine Ledesma

It is July so everything burns. Avenue X smells like dying fish and simmering sludge. The sidewalk has cigarette burns. I am sixteen and staying with my dad for the summer. He lives in the backside of Brooklyn. For the other ten months of the year, I live in the parched suburbs of Texas with my mother. I’ve got at least another month left until I’m due back.

My hair is a strung-out crown. Frazzled waves of teddy bear brown hair pour down my back. I’m walking home from the nearest pharmacy where I have spent two hundred dollars on various useless items: brown hair dye, a bracelet making kit, three health magazines, a bottle of glitter, and a dog toy. Just in case.

I’ve been feeling absolutely shiny. Depression is a word I’ve forgotten how to pronounce. Two weeks ago, I suddenly felt wide awake. Like somebody replaced the air with smoke. It is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I don’t need to sleep anymore. I stay up all night trying to make something happen. I’ve been writing musicals into my phone. Voice memos of mumbled, choppy operas about tennis shoes and lesbians. I’m going to win a big award, I’ve convinced myself. A Tony, Emmy, or Grammy—they’re all mine. I’ve already begun writing my acceptance speech. And of course, I have nobody to thank but myself.

I don’t know it yet—won’t know it for at least another year—but I am experiencing my first manic episode. Even if I did know, I wouldn’t feel any less magic. If I cut myself open, light would leak out. I am a party and everybody is invited.

As I get closer to the entrance of my building, I’m so entranced by my thoughts that I don’t notice the man standing against the lobby door.

“You dropped something.” he says.

I look up at him, my head snapping up from the ground like a flip-phone. There’s a tear tattoo beneath his left eye. I can’t remember if that means his loved one died or if he killed someone. He’s smiling, regardless. His front tooth is lined with gold that twinkles beneath the mid-afternoon sun.

“Huh?” I ask, looking behind me and then into my bag.

 Everything is still there, cluttered together. I can’t remember what the glitter is for. 

“You dropped something,” he says again, standing straighter.

He pulls his phone out of his back pocket in one swift motion, offering it to me.

“Your number into my phone.”

I laugh like a live studio audience. I even squeal. The man forces out a chuckle, unsure of what to do. He’s most likely not used to reaction.

“Oh!” I say in between giggles, walking past him into the lobby.

The elevator is waiting for me like a voicemail. I pull on the door and slip inside, oblivious to the urine on the floor, reeking like blood gone sour, or the swastika carved onto the wall. I click the sixth-floor button and wait for the door to close. I look into the camera calmly perched in the upper right corner of the elevator. It is undoubtedly broken but I stare into it anyway.

And I grin.


JASMINE LEDESMA is a writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in or is set to appear in places such as Crazyhorse, Rattle, and [PANK] among others. Her work has been nominated for Best of The Net and twice for the Pushcart Prize. She was named a Brooklyn Poets fellow in 2021. Her novella Shrine was listed as a finalist for the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize. She recently founded Grime Prophet Magazine.

Photo by Guillaume Meurice from Pexels

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