Monochrome by Christina Pan

I wanted to like you. I like how you say my name, your tongue on the root of your mouth instead of the roof of it like everyone else does, vowels working off your jaw like pepper drops staining snow. I like how you look at me when you speak, your eyes always looking forward instead of darting left and right, like how your voice ricochets off the walls in an empty room. I like how you listen, how you lean in and your hair falls forward on your torso and your shoulders slump forward and your eyes glimmer when you catch something amusing, that slight twitch on the corner of your mouth. I like how you smile, when it reaches past your mouth and to your eyes, and I like how that smile is rare, how you smile like that only near me, as if something hand-tailored. I like how you touch, how your hands briefly brush over shoulders, that delicate pressure on the dip of the neck and arms. I like how you turn, how you swivel, as if with whiplash, when I say your name, that spark of joy in your eyes that burns to mine, if only for a moment. I like how you take your hands and brush strands of hair off your forehead and back towards your ear when you talk, how you want to see everything in clear definition, without adulteration. I like your dark eyes and delicate jaw and spiky hair and I like that it confuses people, that it confuses them if you’re soft or if you’re gothic or if you’re mean, because you’re none of that.

And yet I am rudely aware of you, you near me in the sunlight, where your skin is light and creamy and bright and mine is stained yellow like the sickly lollipops thrown out to sewers. I am rudely aware of you, how your delicate fingers scroll through the catalogue of films as if a minefield marred with flash bombs, how you cherry pick those colors. I am rudely aware of you, you and your sotto voice when you murmur sympathetically at the news, at how you whisper genially and move on quickly, too quickly, your gentle concern muffled by the whirring of your dishwasher that you use to wash plates, instead of filling them pots and pans. I am rudely aware of you, your large sneakers dragging dust through the floorboards, instead of taking them off and putting on slippers around your porcelain feet. I am rudely aware of you, when you gasp, when you talk with learned admiration of all that is exotic and colorful, when you move past monochrome and into the world that you call foreign. I am rudely aware of your eyes, blue and brilliant and peppered with color, as if the rest of you is all in white and black, on an old-timey film and I can only see those colors when you look at me, and when you turn away everything is left like the others.

And yet I wanted to like you. And all I feel now is this gorgeous and goring agony, as if a dark and carbonated beverage that can swell to full and leave an unbearable emptiness. And I am an addict, now, drifting in what seems to be life, but now falling on the side of death with an excellent mortician. And you see in noir, as if from clouds of smoke that glide in through film, the exhaust of cigarette burns that rush in and out of frame. And yet I still see you, your silhouette burned into mine, as these flames instead of smoke rise from your shoulders and beat me half to death, you beautiful monster.


Christina Pan is a high school student. She lives in NYC, and hopes to create something that reaches past words on a screen.

Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, poetry, and creative nonfiction from marginalized creators.