Art by Jenn Kucharczyk & Words by Kristina Mahler

What Happens When You Don't Know What Happens Next

Clutch the red waxed table cloth in disbelief at a Chinese restaurant as you get dumped for providing the wrong amount of love, a death, maybe. Look up at the criss­crossed strings of paper lanterns and watch them become soft blurs as your eyes lose focus.   
Remember the awful optimism of people who believe in coincidence. Like your mother who is always telling you about the pennies she finds on the sidewalk, how birds nod their heads at her before they fly away, how the squirrels wink after she puts out bread for them. These are all signs from your dead grandfather.  You would rather see roadkill than a red balloon floating in the sky or a cloud formation of God’s hand waving.
Scowl at the frat boys who move into the apartment across from yours. Roll your eyes at the Tiki torches, inflatable beer bottle and paper lanterns they decorate their balcony with as you smoke your morning cigarette in the grey March drizzle. Flick the butt at the lanterns and watch it plummet to the courtyard below.

Go on an island vacation alone because it is the easiest way to pretend you are leaving and never coming back. Hike inland towards a river along a path covered in moss. Hear the birds chirping and the dripping water and the sounds of the trees and imagine you are in a nature sounds mp3 recording except that this is real. Meet a bridge along the river and decide to cross the river underneath it. The water does not seem that deep but it is foaming and jumping and the ocean is dragging it forward. Descend into it and realize immediately that it is a mistake, grab at slick rocks and sticks and leaves as you are being pulled along and dunked under the surface. Catch your foot on a branch and crawl back up the bank, laughing hysterically amongst the trees.  

Be startled when your grandmother asks you, “when was the last time you crossed a body of water?” A minute later you have lost her trust and she will not drink the tea you’ve made. She tells you you’re here to rob her, and starts buzzing the panic button for the nurse. Glance at the photo on the shelf of her and you and your cousins under rows of dusky glowing lamps during a trip to Chinatown.
As you walk towards the elevator in your grandmother’s nursing home remember the weight and the pull of the current. Remember how water can make you feel safe and afraid at the same time. And how for a brief moment you imagined being carried out to sea, how easy and pleasant that might have been. And how your hand grasped the branch without a message from your brain, how your body is still alive even though you
think sometimes your brain has turned off.
Buy your own lanterns and hang them in the kitchen. Be reminded of the light inside things.

Jenn Kucharczyk lives in Toronto, ON  Kristina Mahler lives in Montreal, QC

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