my summer in cape town: or, i am sorry for using you

They will ask you

Whether your project can inflict ‘harm’

And you will respond: “minor discomfort” to expedite the review process

 

Her name is Cym,

And the arc of her smile mirrors her painted eyebrows,

On Mondays she asks you what you did over the weekend.

You do not tell her. You are guilty of the conversion rate, how you can afford a club, a skin, a language that she never will.

She wants to know what it feels like to live in America

If you have a handsome boyfriend there who will buy you dinner sometimes

 

In your field research class they will teach you about the importance of obtaining consent.

 

Cym cannot sign your form

So she communicates with the earnestness of hazel eyes

Smiles, tells you how she used to let heroine and men

Inside of her and sometimes couldn’t tell the difference,

Laughs

Tells you how the cops would beat her in men’s prisons

 

In the international research workshop they will tell you not to get involved in your subjects’ personal life.

 

Your palms are sweaty, do not let them smear the ink. Keep writing as she laughs and encourages you to ask more questions

 

An aneurysm is a blood-filled bulge in the wall of a blood vessel. When the size of an aneurysm increases, there is a significant risk of rupture, often resulting in death.

A researcher is an ambitious distraction at the back of the room. When the amount of information increases, there is a significant risk of an epiphany, often resulting in a published paper.

 

She will die suddenly nine months after your interview. You can still remember the scent her smile

 

One.

Dear Cym: In America I am learning how to think that I am better than you.

In fact, I am majoring in you. Don’t worry, they don’t use your name, keep it confidential

 

Two.

I am turning your body into a new theory

Academics work like Johns sometimes don’t worry,

Don’t worry they will pay me to use you,

I will cut you some of the profit in my acknowledgements.

 

Three.

My thesis will be in English,

In the accent you heard on re-runs of friends, Cym I’m sorry we weren’t friends, but I wanted to keep it professional

I promise I will print it on the whitest paper I can find,

So they can see the black in your words

 

Four.

I will bury you in a library,

I hope you will find home there

In this haunted house of quotations

Hanging on the shelves like skeletons

 

Listen to the recorded transcript on repeat,

Feel her laughter crawl into you,

Watch it spark the timber wood of your bones,

And burn your paper in the flames

And cry because we refuse to let people inside of us in fear of imploding

And cry because you have the story of a woman nested in the back of your throat and you do not deserve it.

 

What I really meant to ask is:

What theory did you use to stay warm at night?
Is, Can you teach me?

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