Student Feature: Meal By Caroline Cao

Caroline Cao was born in Florida, but always felt as if she were born in Houston. In her spare time, she conjures ideas, documents them, and processes them into narratives, or else she combats writers block through the relaxing vocation of staring at the ceiling.

Meal

Relaxing against the public trash can. He stares into his Styrofoam cup to count his wages of a few cents and a peppermint candy. A piece of mocking benevolence from a passing child. He drops his coins into the inner pocket of a 10-year-old coat. A bite sized breakfast, later. He unravels the wrapper to catch the candy on his palm and scoops dinner into his mouth.

He imagines crimson stripes swirling on his tongue. He massages the specks of scars where he used to jab needles. The sugar crusts his throat and tongue so he sucks the candy harder. It melts into a smaller relic of itself. And he remembers the mint cough drops his mother shoved down his throat.  Who was now sealed in an urn in some other state, somewhere. “Cure the coughs for a while.”

His needle scars itch. He chomps down the candy. His teeth shatter the small swirling glass into tiny shards that poke his gums. Like when his bare hands first scraped the pavement, forever ago. He sucks on his bleeding tongue. He licks the shards, smooths the sharp edges like he did when rubbing his bruises, forever ago.

Snow sprinkles down from the sky. He opens his mouth to catch the frozen water. He shuts his mouth after a few drops. It washed out the mint.  He laps up the residue on his palm.

For the first time in a long time, he is grateful to breathe.

-Edited by Derrick Rice

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