This is a message for a boy named Sour Grapes.
That isn't your actual name, but in all ways except physical I made you up inside my head. Your spine is an easel and I have carved you with my tiny hands. Your lips were just right, but the skin needed smoothing. Your eyebrows were so angry- let's lift them. Let's tell them not everything is so serious. Your eyes were near perfect. I remember when I bumped into you between classes and you stopped to look down at me. I was wearing icy blue eye shadow that made my irises stand out, and your eyes terrified me because they were endless planets of deep brown haze, and I knew they were something I could peer into for a lifetime. Sometimes I'll be shopping, or brushing my hair, and they'll flash into my head, throwing me off-kilter like earth off its axis. So those were close to perfection. They could use a little light, though. Your stern, proud countenance betrayed your warm nature. Were it not for my tenacity, you and I may have never met. I doused you in sun and, my muse, you are here anew.
Not an inch of my digits contributed to your creation with anything less than devoted dexterity. I lost myself in a flow, my stomach rumbling at the end of each session. Time turned to chignon as you turned into a dream. You have been born again, through me. So I name you Sour Grapes. You've also been "Pentagram" and "Angel Eyes" and "King". The last one lacked creativity, I'll admit, but the spirit was right. I guess I'll explain our history through these monikers. What's in a name? Sit tight and find out.
The girls in my year speak in tongue. We revive dead languages and create our own. Each boy has his own nickname so we can speak of him even when he’s right next to us. This is where my obsession began, I suppose. I've always been a hoarder of the linguistic. I own five copies of Wuthering Heights, inhale dictionaries, and now have the many names of each boy I've loved on my greedy tongue like a charm bracelet. I would see you here and there in the hallways, brooding beautifully in the same sweater and jeans, face flushed from the Connecticut cold, always alone. I didn't have any classes with you, a typical instance of the stars stubbornly refusing to align. I siphoned facets of your personality from people in your orbit and, portentously, clumsily cobbled together a vision of you from these scattered mythologies.
A boy in your sociology class called you a weirdo and said you always blasted metal through your headphones and glared when someone asked to borrow a pencil. A girl in your chemistry class said you read tarot cards during class. She said it with a sneer, a sneer I was familiar with as people gawked at my goth in the hallways, and already I felt closer to you because they didn’t understand.
Another girl also commented on the cards. She said you give her the creeps, that you must worship Satan. But I read them too, and knew they are not about joining evil but fighting it, reading the energy of the cards and avoiding fate with roses and cups in your hands, thanking the angels for showing you devils so you see the danger ahead. I knew that people don’t realize pentagrams are only evil when they’re flipped downward, towards Hell, and in this small way, I knew you. Pentagram. I didn’t know what your mind felt, but I knew what it saw.
The film club was putting on a showing in Calloway Hall. More people went than would be typically inclined because of a vast array of free concessions. It was a last-minute event so people left the dorms in pajamas, and in my nightgown, in a sleepy stupor, I sat right next to you, in your faded Lou Reed shirt and long plaid pants. You choked on the pepperoni pizza you had been eating and I didn’t say a word. You were enchanted by my dress, and I decided to be your ghost. The lights turned off and the film turned on. The footage was a sweltering spaghetti western, with the main hero blistering and burning under the studio lights, but in the auditorium at night I shivered. Goosebumps raised on my arms, and suddenly your arm wrapped around me, your long fingers moving over me in the dark like the bumps were braille, and when the bad guy appeared on the screen with an impressive mustache and a gleam in his eyes, you told me his name was ‘angel eyes’, and my stupidly stunned self said, ‘that’s you’, and even though that line was a shade away from asking if it hurt when you fell from heaven, it worked because you moved a little closer and I fell asleep on your shoulder, and it wasn’t embarrassing at all. When the stars stubbornly refuse to align, you stop wasting your time looking up and make a new constellation.
Two binary stars lit up the town. When we weren’t frolicking around, breaking our eardrums at concerts or being general nuisances with your friends, we would lie in your bed. When your roommate was gone and the coast was clear, I snuck in through the window. Picking leaves and twigs and little bugs out of my hair, you would tell me about your Greek heritage, explaining each syllable of your last name, the silkworms your grandmother carried across the sea, and the different words for sadness that I lapped up like milk. I would listen to all your ramblings and musings and ideas, but I never focused when you read me Greek poetry because to me that was you. There was rhythm in the beat of your heart and the curl of your black hair, the soft rasp in your voice as you hit the last verses of a book. This is where the sculpting began. Not when we talked, when we didn’t. Change is not a hare but a tortoise, not speeding cars but shifting clouds. Slowly, pushing your hair back, leaving soft kisses in the crook of your neck, running my fingers across your lips, I fashioned you into a legend. Twining the filthy foliage that clung to me in my graceless entrance, I made a crown of leaves and fashioned the average into Apollo. You lied when you said those empires fell. My king, we are here.
But we aren’t we anymore. That's the thing about art: once you’ve finished it, it doesn't belong to you anymore. I changed you, Sour Grapes. I cracked my knuckles and strained my muscles and lost sleep fixing the parts of yourself you were afraid to touch. I opened the chest in your head that you thought was a Pandora's box, and released not chaos but life, but there is chaos in it now because I am trapped inside and cannot get out. This world is yours, it always was, you just never saw it, but you believe the only way to validate your ascension is to disassociate from me. You’ve materialized my metaphor, and in the real world the prince and the pauper do not fit.
I don't call you Sour Grapes because of your jealousy or pride. I call you Sour Grapes because I am that fable no one remembers. You are the grapes and you are out of reach, and I am the fox telling people I never liked you in the first place and it kills me because I always have and I always will, and every nickname coalesces into scalding truth because pentagrams are secular, not Satanic, but it can all change through a simple reverse and sometimes I wonder how much you've changed. I can’t talk about you to anyone because they’re right, you are cruel, but not in the way they think. And the difference creates a distance.
I am afraid of how much I love you, but I am also amazed that I can still feel this way about anybody after all that I have been through and all that has been through me. I guess it’s better to be hungry for sour grapes than to chase my own tail. Sour Grapes, I am obsessed. I am the dormant volcano, the skeleton in your closet, the woman in your attic. If something opens once, it can and will be opened again. Every knob on a closed door has a metallic siren song, beckoning a sailor to dash their curiosity against the rocks by giving the knob a spin. You can tell yourself that as long as you don’t see me, I am not there- but I am. You are Sour Grapes, I am the Fox, and the future awaits.
Summer 2020 Contest Winner