Rowan wakes to sunlight filtering through thin white curtains, pulled together uselessly
against the soft rays. They sway in the breeze that comes through windows that Ari had cracked
open last night, now that the nights were warm. They had wanted to listen to the first crickets of
the season, and Rowan had fallen asleep with their song in his ears.
Ari’s hair is in his face, and he brushes away the wild, dark curls to sit up. They are still
asleep next to him, and his movement hadn’t been enough to wake them. He looks out the
window. The crickets have been replaced with birds, and a particularly loud one convinces
Rowan to go downstairs and start the coffee, where all of the windows are closed.
Ari walks down just as Rowan is pouring the hot water into the french press.
“Can I do it?”
Rowan lets them take control. He knows how much they love using the french press on
the weekends, like how they enjoy pressing the elevator buttons. Their easy hands press the
coffee grounds steadily downwards. For a moment, all Rowan does is breathe, in and out, and
watch his partner’s hands. The sunlight has reached the kitchen, and everything from the wood to
the freckles on Ari’s cheeks seem to be glowing. Rowan breathes, and wraps his arms around
himself in a hug.
Ari finishes with the coffee, and looks at Rowan. They smile.
“Good morning.” They say formally as they lean back against the counter, mouth smiling
even wider. He smiles at their teasing tone.
“Good morning,” he replies, and they push off of the counter and close the distance
between the two of them, wrapping their arms around Rowan’s own. He signs into the embrace,
and then laughs to himself.
“What is it?”
He laughs again. “Nothing, just... breakfast burrito.”
Ari bursts into laughter as well. “That’s so stupid. That’s SO stupid.”
“No look, I’m wrapped up! Like a breakfast burrito!”
“Shut up!” They say, and bury their head into his chest, still laughing. Their laughter
fades into content smiles as the two of them rock back and forth for a few long moments, arms
The fluorescent light bulb in the bathroom does no favors to Rowan’s headache as he
looks at his hair in the mirror. He passes a hand through it, blonde strands reaching high above
his fingers. It’s getting long again. He opens the cabinet door to find the clippers, and is instead
greeted with anxiety medication. The orange bottle stands out against the white wood of the
cabinet, and all Rowan can think about is the extra pill currently in the bottle that was supposed
to be swallowed yesterday. Ari opens the bathroom door just has he closes the cabinet, and they
say, “You know what we should do tomorrow?”
“Use that orange juicer your mom gave us.”
“Yeah, let’s go the store. Oh! Also I have something I wanna get.”
As they walk out of the bathroom, Rowan closes his eyes when he passes the sharp white
light. Ari is the one to turn it off.
The shopping cart’s front left wheel is broken. Rowan doesn’t know why Ari told him to
grab it on the way in, they were only getting oranges and whatever is is that Ari wanted. But
now, Rowan is grateful, because the rattling of the wheels is vibrating up through the handle and
into his hands, grounding him in the moment. The two of them make their way through the aisles
until they get to the craft section, where Ari hops down off the front of the cart and crouches
below the fancy ballpoint pens. The cart veers left slightly, and Rowan has to pull it back
towards his partner. Ari makes a noise of triumph, and they emerge with a plastic container of
golden glitter, made dull and abrasive by the sharp white lights of the store.
“I’m gonna put glitter in my hair!” they announce, and place the plastic container on the
child seat of the cart. Rowan doesn’t respond, opting instead to shift his weight off of his arms,
off of the cart’s handle. He feels the weight sink back into his feet, and Ari asks, “Is there
anything you need?”
The two end up wandering through a couple more aisles, with Rowan pushing the cart
and Ari walking to his right. Before he can ask about going home, he finds himself in the
kitchenware section. Further down an aisle, a knife reflects clinical white light, dull and abrasive.
Rowan turns left and walks toward it, leaving Ari behind. It’s a chef’s knife, with a golden blade
gently curving out of a black handle. Rowan puts it in the cart just as Ari catches up behind him.
“What’s that?” they ask, giving him a small smile.
“It’s a... um,” he pauses to read the packaging. “It’s a Chroma Katsumi Chef’s Knife.”
He knows this isn’t an answer, and he knows that Ari knows this isn’t an answer when they say,
“Oh, ok. Look, it matches the glitter!” Rowan looks, and it does. Both items gleam in the
bottom of the cart, but Rowan’s gaze is repeatedly torn from the glitter to stare at the knife. Dull
Rowan’s head feels distant, disconnected as he grabs a red mesh bag of navel oranges.
There’s too many people at the checkout for him to feel comfortable, and the squeaky broken
wheel turns left, away from Ari standing on the right, guiding Rowan across the bare laminate
tiles of the floor and around the bare white industrial shelves and through the lights overhead that
are too bright and too white and Rowan just wants to go home.
The sun dances across the bathroom tiles, but all Rowan feels is the cold hard surface
under his bare feet. He reaches past ignored anxiety medication to easily find the clippers, and
it’s the buzzing of Rowan shaving his head that wakes Ari. They pad into the bathroom with
socked feet, kiss Rowan’s shoulder where hair hasn’t had the chance to fall, and playfully rub the
area where it has. Rowan’s head hurts and it feels like he’s floating, and he closes the cabinet
door before his partner can realize that there are far too many pills still in the bottle.
When Ari finishes shaking the golden glitter into their dark curls, they offer some to
Rowan, who declines, citing the shortness of his newly-shorn hair, not citing the fact that there is
a familiar static cloud separating him from the world. His head hurts.
“It looks better on you, anyway.” He says, and they smile at that. The glitter catches the
glow of their cheeks and spins light to bounce off of the bathroom tiles, reflecting back to frame
their face. For a second, Rowan swears they have a halo.
Ari opens the windows and a gentle wind moves with the light, shining onto Rowan’s
back as he methodically cuts oranges in halves, the juicer sitting patiently to the side. Sunlight
warmly reflects off of the golden knife in his sticky hands. Ari sits on the kitchen counter next to
him, their fuzzy-socked feet swinging between the sunbeams. It is the kind of mid-morning
where everything is in comfortable slow-motion, contrasting the pounding of Rowan’s heart.
He cuts through an orange, the blade making a dull thunk against the wooden cutting
“Why did you need that knife?” Ari asks lightly. Their feet swing back and forth, heels
hitting the cabinets each time. It was a carefully conversational question, but he doesn’t answer.
The blade slides through another orange. If Rowan is being honest, it isn’t the best knife.
He had tried sharpening it, but the gold began to flake off so he quickly stopped. He places the
halves in a bowl and grabs another.
“I didn’t really. I just liked it.”
Ari nods, lifting their gaze to look out the window. Instantly Rowan feels cold static
creep into the empty space their gaze leaves on his form.
Rowan’s feet are cold, bare on the tiled floor. His socks are just upstairs, but his hands
are sticky with orange juice, and the knife feels glued to his hand, just as his eyes are glued to the
knife. It is hot and heavy in his hand, and through the static in his head he slices an orange.
Ari’s hands wrap around the edge of the counter they’re sitting on, and they lean down to
be eye level with him. They brush a dark curl out of their face, and Rowan sees the glitter
transfer to their hands.
Rowan only has time to look at them for a second as he responds, before turning back to
yet another orange, and yet another cut, and yet another layer of clinical static floating him away
from the atmosphere of the warm golden sunlight hitting the warm golden glitter in Ari’s hair
and Ari’s eyes and Ari and-
“Slow down,” they say, and Rowan turns to look at them through the haze of gold and
orange. His head is floating again, and the only thing tying him to his body is the way they look
at him. “Your hair can hold the glitter, you know. If you wanted it.”
He blinks, and stares back at them, brown eyes meeting blue, golden knife resting on top
of an orange.
“You don’t have to keep using that knife if it’s not sharp.” A rounded indent appears
underneath the knife, releasing tiny spurts of scent from the skin of the orange. It doesn’t break.
The gentle wind has stopped and it’s hot again, so hot, because the windows are open and
Ari is staring at him and their eyes are brown and their hair has glitter.
His skin pulls away from the handle of the knife like a bandaid being ripped off after too
long, and Ari takes his hand. They crinkle their nose at the sticky orange juice on his skin and
say “Ew,” and smile as they push him towards the sink.
is a non-binary writer from Baltimore currently working on their bachelor's degree in English. They enjoy strong coffee, big jackets, and crying over actual play podcasts. You can find them @knifeocean on twitter.
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you are necessary and brave, and you are strong. you are smart. you are worth every step it takes to stay alive. you are capable, significant, and brave, even when it feels like you’re not.