museum of deliberate intimacy

Samia Saliba

for a few weeks that year it was color-graded
warm like a tv flashback sequence. we spread
our skin out from finger to finger and collected
wood splinters under our tongues. we were not
as angry then as we have become since. back
then we loved for too many seconds per minute
to find time to hate. we spent a weekend in the
mountains pretending to learn each other. that
was the last time i remember being high. it was
the last spring i spent unspooled before we had
to wind ourselves back up & we all developed
trust issues. 

for one full minute i managed to forget what
i knew about danger. i sun-burned my thighs
riding my bike. i did things i did not tell my
mother. i sat alone in the park and made plans.
yes, i learned to lie. i had a number of crushes.
in a series of two-hour bus rides & almost kisses
i learned how to fake intimacy or maybe to fake
faking it. i was celibate. that summer was the first
time i felt too young to be desired and too old
to tell men to stop watching. i uncovered a glitch
in my body and decided to let myself be traded
in silence. 

we pretend sporadically until one of us finally
pulls the plug. this is how i learned to take
each of these brainworms seriously. when i tell
you i’m grateful i know it is childish but we have
to name which dangerous lives we lived and which
we only dreamed. here are several of mine: one.
i was fifteen and we kissed on an empty lawn. two.
i was seventeen and we smoked cigars on the porch
while it rained. three. i was eighteen and i burned
a ring in the wooden table. four. i was eighteen and
we snuck into the museum to see basquiat. five. i was
eighteen and he fed me cake. i could have run
& didn’t have to.

Samia Saliba (she/her) is an Arab-American writer and historian. She edited The Rachel Corrie Foundation’s Shuruq 4.5 Writing Showcase for writers of Arab heritage (2020) and was a RAWI Wet Hot Arab-American Summer fellow (2019). Her work has been published in Rusted Radishes, Mizna, Protean Magazine, Sumou Magazine, and elsewhere. Find her on twitter @sa_miathrmoplis or in real life petting a cat.

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