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By Coco Aranya Usher March 26, 2021

Spool of Days

I keep a small journal for my dreams, which I write down in the mornings, drowsy with sun, hair in tangles, lapping at the edges. I’ve typed them out here.


August 1st 2020

I was in some place with other young people. I kept climbing up and down these tall tall stairs and I was terrified of falling. And the whole place had the feel of an amusement park after its final closing. Desolate. Dusky. So quiet. And I was climbing up and down. At one point, I stayed at the top, reading for hours. This peak was frozen in twilight. I sat with my back to the metal grate looking at the tumbling stairs and the purple blue landscape below. Next to me, there was a building with a service window carved in the front. Icy light (fluorescents) was spilling from it and small towers of folded laundry were forming (all beach towels in muted colors). Women inside were working perpetually with their hands, folding, drying, washing. One of the women told me it was time to go back. There was an ocean below. When we were about to leave, mom and Ocie came back up to our room (they were still soaked in dusky light) and said the shore was littered with blue seashells. So I put on my black rain boots and ran down to the coast with Arwen. To get down, we had to climb on this construction site made of metal bars and wire. Arwen wanted to slide down the poles and she said something important. I can’t remember now. But she was faraway climbing and somehow I wasn’t afraid anymore. I felt the weight of gravity and also felt myself moving so fast, hopping on the wires and swinging on the poles. And I got to the lower level and it felt like I was flying. And then someone called me a superhero and I was a little kid again.


Blue threads pool in my underbelly. The telephone is clenched in these warm hands; dusk is everywhere.


Her voice eats up the quiet in soft, gentle mouthfuls, gliding along the frenzied air, crashing. The questions are the same, and the dusk is sticky.

“Who is it?”

Cicadas and air-conditioning. Hot summer blazed in oak trees. We could go climbing.

“Oh, it’s so nice to hear your voice. I haven’t heard from you in so long. How are you all?”


You had your hair tied as you brushed the spoon back and forth in that frying pan.

“How am I doing?”

You smiled and yelled and showered me in warmth.



Circular disks of palm sugar collapsed like sandcastles in blistering heat. And kids laughed.

“To be honest with you. It gets lonely here.”

“It gets lonely.”


August 2nd 2020

There were treehouses around us but we were in the kitchen, all bathed in sunlight. Later or earlier, I found myself in a dark space. Muted clouds thundered from distant heights and a mist had settled over the horizon. The world was rocky. I had been brought to this place, taken, plucked from the apocalypse of a dusky suburban road by a man hunting for glory. I watched him from across a hockey rink, bathing in an icy halo. I told him to push his throat through the TV screen, thought he’d strangle in the cold, saw the pixels dancing.


“It’s so quiet here.”

I remember the big white house. Morning glories bleeding in softest watercolor. Ferns bursting from the kitchen ceiling. Sunlight pouring through craters in plaster. Flooding us. You and me in the afternoon light. Years ago.

“I wish you could come over.”

I went for a walk the other day. Friday it was. Watched your face appear in the apartment window. The august skies, pale and threadbare, wrapped themselves around you. Saw your hands as you waved.

On the way home, I cut through the park to watch the ducks sleeping. Do you remember? I was a little girl with dirty brown hair. You were a woman who watched the suburbs expanding over black coffee. And the Ontario air was frothy as we hunched towards the peer, tossing clumps of white bread at the silky waters. We watched the seagulls fuse with the wind, rising and falling with each clumsy throw. The walk back towards the car: a crisp and gentle metamorphosis.

“It would be so nice to see you.”

I remind you again. I talk about grocery stores and hand sanitizer. Your voice falters, surges, halts. A horse smudged in muddy tracks. Over the phone, I draw a map of Montreal. I trace the Saint-Laurence in quivering lines. I count off the arrondissements in my mind. I leave a bulging mass for the Mount-Royal. I take a marker and color it all red.

“Oh. I see.”

There is quiet. My bedroom door is half-open. The hallway is golden. Glow-in-the-dark stars float on a plaster ceiling. One small, self-contained universe. We wanted to make constellations. Andromeda. Cassiopeia. Ram. But we emptied that box of galaxies before making it halfway across the bed.

“And this is in the whole world?”

In the dusky blue of a bruised room, I nod; then remember the cell phone. A phantom limb is my smile in the dark faraway from you. We’re held together by telephone wires and sound and a vague sense of time. The silence has evened us. There is space for shifts, relapses in conversation.

“How was your day yesterday?”

Yesterday. How was yesterday?


August 4th 2020

We were skydiving. White milky bowl of cream clouds. I was being chased through that long descent. As gravity and atmosphere mingled and pressed on my chest, I felt the encroaching attack. I started hurling bits of glass over my shoulder. I heard them on the wind. High. Clinking. And my hands were criss-crossed with crimson. Past my bloody, cut-up hands. Against the speckled, baby blue. That’s where I saw the sunbathers.


How was yesterday?

Well. We tumbled in the lake yesterday, body gentle blue, a belly button perched in autumn wind, the earth tender and sunburnt, West Memphis under fire. Afterwards, cool, Joni came rushing as I slept on cotton, windows open, fan going, round and round. The hurricanes in my headphones subsided, guitars snapped, maple tinted the air. In the blue TV screen light, I drew a map of Canada. Oh, Canada.

How was yesterday?

Remember when we climbed those ice cliffs? The ones swollen with splinters of glassy light, lodged in our irises, our pupils? We moved in snow coats, weighed and warm, wringing out white hills until we realized that we’d feasted on the winter sun, its weathered tranquility, its worn new beginnings, its hungry want. It caught our flush and sweat and calloused hands. It swallowed. Everything.

Now your mind is an Everest. We climb through parks and art books. You spread them on wooden tables and point to Mondrian’s flowers. You think the chrysanthemums look like soldiers, if you tilt your head to the left. You move through the apartment, peering into the cavernous streets below, soothing with their sun and strangers. Two rooms. Four windows. You rearrange yourself.


August 5th 2020

It was the day of prom. I needed to get ready. But there were these strange older people in my room, shuffling, fiddling with my things. I kept trying to find a way to change. I was holding a lilac and gold dress and sitting on my old bed next to mom. And the room was full of bits of shifting, seeping sunlight like honey, with cool sweeping shadows circling the rest. And one of the old men kept walking and fiddling with the light switch and elevator buttons on the closet door and all of a sudden, he started playing this beautiful melody with the buttons. He had emerged from the fog of his dementia to fill my bedroom with music. And mom and I looked at each other. Smiling.

How was yesterday?


Yesterday, we sang Amazing Grace through the telephone. Our tinsel voices chugged through lines and pulled the melody down, into those dusky, electric waters.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

Tugboats, twinkling red with 6pm, we dragged the body of that milky blue whale towards the shore, receiver in hand, melody tangled breathless in fishing wire. I saw your eyes crinkle as you laughed when our voices swooped. I saw it despite the sidewalks, the pines, the years between us. You said this country is a season. It too will slip away.

“I love you. I miss you.”

Me too, grandma.

“Bye now.”


The phone light disappears. The room is quiet. The walls are stained blue. Summer is buzzing.

And from my cluster of world maps and wind chimes, I wonder what it means to have been blessed. Really blessed. The kind that requires kneeling and whispered prayers and church darkness sliced by honeyed motions. I wonder if I am blessed now.

I wonder if your voice is the chorus.

And I catch myself thinking again. That I am an urn of faded ceramic. I dream myself sitting in dusty sunlight. I watch your hands darken with clay. I feel the memories leaking. Blue threads. I was meant to hold you.


August 4th 2020

I walked into the forest, through the metro station, over the hedge. It was like there were pieces missing. Like the pines were drenched in translucent milk. And there were icicles and a shallow pond. There was a shark in the pond. And someone came rushing. So I jumped in. And suddenly, the pond became an ocean, or one of those Great Lakes. And there was a raft and she was swimming towards it and there were specks of white reflected in the clear blue water. And for whatever reason, she had to keep going back and forth between the raft and the shore. And each time she swam the shark took bites, like a starving mosquito. But there was no blood in the water. Only on her freezing body. And she died on the raft. Looking up at the sky. Mouth open. And I was crying. I didn’t know who she was. I was still trying to place her face when the metro swept by.


Blue threads tip towards the lake,
       and I sit and watch shadows, wrecked,
              by the lily torn moon

About the author

Coco Aranya Usher is a first-year student in Liberal Arts. She loves music, books and long car rides. Her future plans involve apple picking and learning to skateboard. 

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