THE SIGNS IN 100 WORDS by Alaina Symanovich

Aries, the pontificator

Be hypocrisy.  Be the dark whispered from the roofs.  I tell you, my friends: kill.  You have no place to be merry.  God demanded your life, your body, your splendor—you!  Set your heart on worry, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you to the thief.  Be ready for burning.  Truly, I tell you, he will recline at the table in the middle of the night when you least expect him and beat and cut to pieces and bring fire on you.  Peace on earth?  No, division.  Daughter against daughter against the law.  Be reconciled to prison.[i]

Taurus, the awakening

Cornsilk hair, eyelashes batting fast as hummingbird hearts, lips loose enough to lose your secrets.  I pocketed you, my seed of a dream of a hope.  (Seed dreamy hopes of me; dream seedy hopes of me.)  Some dreams we run for, some dreams we hide from.  In other words, I have unpocketed you.

If you return to me, Taurus, return to my past.  Reassure me that everything I did not know then, I sorely needed to know, but so did everybody else.  Kiss me so I believe I’m spectacular, as and more and less spectacular than everybody else you’ve ever pocketed.

Gemini, the rash

His celebration swallowed the known world.

(Does each century face morning?  The stars are certain that not one human has ever chumped the sky.)

A Plaza, a Tower, a Castle.  Sword and spear.  Ego.  Luck.  His pinstriped-suited body, the Billionaire American dream.

(How did that happen to us?)

Perhaps we built glass fantasies.

(The swaggering capitalists look positively happy, not a trace of anguish or self-conflict or guilt.)

All lives in the hand basket.

“I won’t lose a penny,” he said, a twinkle in his eyes—that was the scary thing.

But perhaps a soul was too much to ask.[ii]

Cancer, the love

Everything is dank ass: pick up the dank ass vacuum and clean this dank ass carpet of this dank ass dirt.  Everything is izz: I lizzove you, you’re the bizzest, you’re so dizzamn beautiful.  Everything is wrinkled noses and wrestling on stained sheets and wrenching the covers back from you on your tossy-turny nights.  Everything is puttering coffeemakers and sticky kitchen counters and guinea pigs wheeking at midnight and your dirty Birkenstocks by the door and my lace underwear waiting on the bureau.  Everything is this home, is this code, is this sleep-drunken sex to the melody of your breath.

Leo, the haunted

You are drunk, all curves.  You see their heads—eyeballs, small moons glowing.  You stamp both feet.  Glitter in your lap, drifting dust.  Your nose running.  Again and again this terrible bleat.  You watch for a while like a bride.  Something stabs in your side.  The breathing behind you, shallow and fast.  A ghost bites you on your shoulder and you struggle and flail.  It’s Night of the Living Dead. 

You tell him some of what happened.  What can you tell him?  You wanted to fix what you had broken.

Some things stay with you.  The dent in your nose.  The ruin.[iii]

Virgo, the stalemate

I say you don’t, didn’t, wouldn’t; the script says you can’t, couldn’t, wished to.  Look at me: quibbling over semantics as if they’re the editors of history.  History is film and I am documentarian!  If you don’t like my show, erase yourself from the cast credits.  You already have? I already have?  Again: semantics.

Even if I rewind the tape, the negatives are still there.  Even if I erase the tape, I am still here.  You can’t end scene and not expect to be recast.  (I excised you and felt nothing.)  Your part is here.  (Why won’t you play it?)

Libra, the sensation

You’re a secret in a place with no gold.  You’re witness to everything shattering.  You fluff your blonde bangs and someone across the country shudders with jealousy.  You’re miserably fulfilled, you say.

You’re a silent island of haunting; you’re a moonbow at noon.  You’re perfect as an old black hat. You’ve begun to want your strangers back.  You’re considering strapping into yellow stilettos and hiking to the Hollywood sign—though, of course, you’ve always detested yellow.

You’re wondering aloud why stars aren’t visible from L.A.  You’re denying my answer of light pollution.  You’re fiddling with your false eyelashes, yawning, craving.

Scorpio, the engineer

According to the ever-credible, you, Scorpio, are my, Leo’s, biggest heartbreaker. I waited, and Waiting for Scorpio was dramatically anticlimactic in that you never came, in that I made do with those who did, in that I stayed suspended in the neither-here-nor-there for entire acts of my life.  Only upon inspecting my nave of waiting did I find you, or rather your fingerprints stroked over every wall and window. Somewhere in the unknowable crevices of your past, you imagined this sanctum for me, this shelter, this kingdom without a matriarch.

I imagine I have become a matriarch unto myself.

Sagittarius, the idol

Those who hurt you will eventually screw up themselves & if you’re lucky, God will let you watch.

Watch out for Regina George in sheep’s clothing…

I mean, how would you feel if, at the lowest you’ve ever been, someone kicked you even lower?

You need someone new to try and bury.  

Thinking, “yeah, yeah, yeah.  This chick is full of shit.”

And, you know, just another way to play the victim.  It definitely got her a lot of attention the first time.

I feel like me, and Taylor Swift might still have sex.  Why?  I made that bitch famous.[iv]

Capricorn, the cherished

Our friendship bracelets: two heart-halves with jagged middles, puzzle pieces that fit together seamlessly.  Those shiny heart-halves were emblazoned with kindred (yours) and spirits (mine): you selflessly accepted kindred because I deemed the word too hideous to dangle from my wrist. Remember girlhood in all its restless sparkle, like so many sequins reflecting fluorescent light, like powdered sugar snowed over the kitchen floor?  Remember how we unceremoniously gave one another up?  Rightly so, for spirits can age out of girlhood, and kindred can dull into indifference, but a keepsake sheltered in the velvet drawer of a jewelry box is forever.

Aquarius, the mistake

Self-inflicted injuries rumored to hurt more than you: safety-pinning an eyeball; grinding a molar to grits; scissoring off the tip of the tongue; power drilling through the trachea; hammering the collarbone; plying off a nipple; roto-rooting through the belly button; igniting the pubic hair; shooting both kneecaps; skinning oneself with a fork; tweezing off each toenail.

For months, strangers leaned deep into my eyes and whispered where does it hurt? But I couldn’t answer wherever she is because my tongue had molted into my gums and my teeth had become thistles, and I couldn’t breathe without recalling how you had kissed me.

Pisces, the wish

You interpreted my coal-eyed compliment as an insult.  With soft hands and wiggling feet, you looked out the window and said it was snowing, and I said no, it cannot be, we live in the desert.  Custard crusted your corduroys; you pointed and said, look, frost.  You said you wanted a heart until it hurt, so I said I hurt.  You called me a stick in the mud, and I said there was not any mud in the desert, and you said my snow must have turned the dirt into mud, and I said let’s lie down, then, and we did.

[i] An erasure of Luke 12 (NIV).

[ii] An erasure of Gary Smith’s 1989 article “Donald Trump,” which appeared in People.

[iii] An erasure of Jon Loomis’ “Deer Hit.”

[iv] All lines taken from celebrity interviews, Tweets, and songs about Taylor Swift.

Alaina Symanovich studies creative nonfiction in the MFA program at Florida State University. Her work has appeared in Sonora ReviewSuperstition ReviewQuarter After Eight, and other journals.  Her essay “The M Word,” first published in Fourth River, was awarded Best of the Net in 2016.

Author Statement:

“The Signs in 100 Words” was inspired by the myriad astrology articles shared across social media sites; she wanted to transform the genre, which usually includes broad-strokes descriptions of or predictions for people, into an account of people she knows (or knows of).

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