A car goes by and makes a pop when it drives over a stick.
The boy on the lawn hears it and kneels down in the grass.
He stretches out and puts his head down in the grass and rests his mouth on his forearm.
He opens his mouth and tastes his forearm and feels the hair on it.
The patch of arm gets slick.
There’s something boring and sad about it.
A person goes by and he hears the person’s footsteps right at head-level.
He hears a telephone ringing in another house.
He hears the person say, “Hello?”
They start talking but it’s too low for him to understand anything after that.
He bites down on his forearm a little bit.
He sucks on it.
He bites down a little bit harder and then lets go and looks at the teeth marks.
The sun is warm and his face feels hot all of a sudden.
He rolls over on his side and his pants are covered with seed pods.
He rests his head down again in the same position and touches the teeth marks on his arm with closed lips.
They are just slightly sore but he is not paying attention to the soreness he is paying attention to the way the indented marks feel against his lips.
He dries off the slick spot and dries off his lips and then brushes them again against the set of indentations.
What’s the matter? he thinks.
There’s nothing the matter, it’s just the way things are.
He fits his teeth back into the bites on his arm and closes his eyes while a breeze rolls past.
He hears some footsteps.
Another boy runs by trying to scare a bird.
The sound of footsteps and flapping feathers dies down and the boy bites his arm harder, slowly, to test how much he can stand of it.
He keeps biting down with more and more force until something stops him.
He lets go.
A line of spit stretches from his mouth to the slick spot.
He wipes it off and looks at the marks.
They are much deeper now, but no one knows about it.
When he touches the line of marks with his finger he knows that he’s the only one who feels it.
On a porch across the street a woman beats two shoes together, causing a cloud of dust to drift out into the air.
He watches the cloud of dust disappear against the backdrop of the familiar houses.
He rests his head down on his arm again in the same spot and bites down.
Buried in the patch of grass by his face is a spent match.
A half-hour passes.
A mass of clouds rolls under the sun, and the air cools.
He remembers the other day in the back yard, climbing a tree.
He remembers being very young and picking out a blue and white striped tank top shirt at the store with his mother but then never wanting to wear it.
He feels like a room accidentally built outdoors.
The feeling goes away except for the stillness around it.
Once it’s gone he lets go of his arm again and this time the skin clings for a moment to the edges of his teeth.
When it lets go he hears the sound of it letting go and it’s almost like the sound of someone shutting off a light.
He swallows and the taste of his arm seems normal to him.
The soreness of his arm seems normal.
He sees someone he doesn’t know but feels as though he has been him.
The person comes closer and the feeling passes.
Don’t let it pass, he thinks.
In his mind’s eye he is the person, standing in the frame of a doorway.
There is no sound, but he begins talking.
The words come out easily.
It’s the middle of the day.
He can’t hear what he is saying but he keeps on saying things more plainly than he ever could before.
He doesn’t notice it but his arm has slipped back into his mouth.
His jaw won’t relax; it thinks it ought to be biting down hard on something.
He keeps on talking as the person he doesn’t know and the absence of his real self goes into him.
There’s a darkness behind him that is more real than his real self but he doesn’t want to know it or talk about it.
Everything that had been there behind him feels like it’s moving, as though set upon the back of a moving train.
He doesn’t know it but he is telling himself about the grass and the people near him as he sank down into it.
He is telling himself about someone who went to the other side of a room to be alone.
I wish everyone on earth lived that way, he says.
He doesn’t feel the soreness of his arm as it sinks down into the grass, becoming part of the grass.
He can’t hear himself talk but he feels the road going by and the footsteps not in any way hidden.
The people walking by are tired, he says.
They are not themselves.
They are the way they used to sit along the concrete wall by the school, reaching out with their arms for something.
They are sinking down into the grass, able to breathe, he says.
They are seventeen years old, listening to the sound of a person sleeping.
They are able hear it because it is their own sleep.
They dozed off while working away in the grass, like two white rivers.
If you stop and look out the window you are able to speak in their voice instead of yours.
They want to know who you are, he says.
They even ask you.
But you don’t know where you are.
You have gone off to be alone now, in a place you always knew was there.
John Colasacco is the author of Antigolf (Civil Coping Mechanisms) and The Information Crusher (Spuyten Duyvil). Other recent work has appeared in Hobart, Birdfeast, theNewerYork, LIES/ISLE, and The Iowa Review. Anyone interested in written/artistic collaboration can email at firstname.lastname@example.org.