April Joy Sun

She walks with a sway in her hips and he with a confident stride. They pass by street vendors selling pirated movies, closing restaurants, and hurtling jeepneys. They turn on a corner, the wall reeking with piss, and then enter a room through a rusty door. There are already people hanging outside, and there are even more inside. Beat of drums, screech of guitars, cacophony of angry screams. I like it better when Matt only walked along school corridors and sunlit streets.

Matt keeps his hair long, almost reaching his waist, even though it’s bothersome. And he keeps me, too, though I’m well past my prime, my body stretched so much that my inside has snapped. I am the reason why his locks–black as ink and wavy–get into his eyes when he bends over his college textbooks. They obstruct his vision in the frenzy of fist fights, and make his new girlfriend reach for the nearest pair of scissors. I try my best to hold the rebellious strands, of course, but it’s a hard thing to do at my state. My woven, purple-dyed skin is all that’s left to keep me from breaking–a death that draws near as my threads continue to fray.

I held another person’s hair once, when I was young. I met her when I was new and more of a proper hair band than the ugly ring of string I am now. Katherine had such soft and silky hair. I loved to wrap myself around her tresses and breathe in her shampoo’s fruity scent. It was green apple, I remember, a rare scent that makes you feel refreshed but hungry at the same time. It was just like the way Matt looked at her as he followed her home a few years ago. He was then a laughing boy with frequent trips to the guidance office, sneaking glances at the lovely but quiet girl who always had a pen and a sketch pad in her hands.

The couple sees some friends, waves to them, and goes to their table. On their way, someone bumps into Matt, and he uses his height to glare the man down. Such a short temper, and still very impatient–Katherine thought he was going to hit her when he cornered her one afternoon to confess his feelings.

In their table, listening to the bands, Matt’s face is emotionless and his posture seemingly at ease. I could see that his neck and shoulder muscles are tense, though. He always remembers her on days like these; he probably wonders where she’s spending her birthday. This is when she would buy chocolate and mint cake to eat, and Matt once told her that it was an interesting flavor after they kissed.

“Matt, hey!” Nicole, the girlfriend, shouts although Matt is sitting right beside her. She grabs his arm and leans closer. Her breath smells of cigarettes. “Really, sometimes it’s like you don’t look at me at all,” she pouts. She crosses her legs under her short denim skirt, the curve of her calves emphasized by high heels. Katherine only dressed like that once: on the last day that she let Matt touch her, when her hair came undone and I fell on Matt’s feet.

Matt looks at Nicole, who was clutching his tattooed arm, then kisses her without saying a word. Slender fingers wander to his hair, and I feel dark red talons tug at my straining hold. In this room filled with restless emotions and bitter regret, Matt’s memory of rage on Katherine’s face becomes as hazy as gray cigarette smoke. ▪