Where’s The Love?
When Hanson sang where’s the love, I was in her room, the two of us sewing doll-sized sleeping bags in ivory wool. We collected beanie babies and boy band lyrics, imagined our future loves with hair as long as ours, watched the stick-on stars on her ceiling glow. In her dollhouse, each pink room was furnished with couches and tables, a blue glass spiral staircase that shot straight through to heaven. We had dinner on the first floor. Passed around porcelain dishes of warm meatloaf and spaghetti and I felt like one part of a sitcom family where everyone was loved.
When she moved out of state, I played freeze tag with white kids in the Catholic school parking lot. I adapted to this new logic, understood that to be touched meant to stop all motion and speech, to tell your heart be still, tell your body be still, to vanish and hope someone would undo what had been done.
That was the summer of my retreat, where I listened to girls retell the worst years of their childhoods. How did they get through it? Some of them shared poems they had written. Some of them shared music. Crossfade, Foo Fighters. One of them brought pieces of shell and cut glass she had found on a beach, each one tucked into a velvet-lined box and separated by tiny compartments. One of the fragments was smooth and curled, like a baby’s finger.
We all sat in a circle after that, dropped notes we had written into a black velvet sack that was passed around. I don’t remember what the counselor told us to write. If it was something I wanted to let go of or hold onto. Maybe both.
Fourteen years later, I made my first attempt. In recovery, I slept. In the summer, I looked for music to wrap around me like two arms. I searched videos in bed. Watched seven boys dance in perfect synchrony and sing of childhood, of first loves and coffee shops, of running and running and all I know how to do is love you. They held my hand through the night. They did. And they sang while I took pictures around my neighborhood like a tourist: sunflower stalks, rabbits, little gnome statues in conversation with each other.
I couldn’t stop eating onigiri in those days. I had everything I needed. Koshihikari and Kewpie mayo and nori and tuna. I would click-click-click my phone until I found BTS and the recipe I bookmarked. Sometimes I think this is all I know how to do, cultivate devotion in small, tender acts so I try to do it well: cup the rice and mold it into a ball, feel the warmth of my own hands and god I swear it’s like holding myself.
Jessica Cavero is a writer living in New Jersey. Her work has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Barren Magazine, Jellyfish Review, Wigleaf and elsewhere. Her short story “Toguro” won the 2017 Katherine Anne Porter Prize from Nimrod International Journal. You can find more of her work at fightfayre.net.