Paradoxical Undressing


I loved a boy who had a hole in his chest—I could see the backdrop of wildflowers
                        and mountains through him
                                                  when I unbuttoned his shirt—

—“paradoxical undressing” is a symptom of hypothermia
         during which victims stop feeling the cold and succumb to delusions of heat so powerful
                                                                       that they strip off their clothes—

     —in the early photos of us, we were two children on the green lawn at school,
                            draped over each other like stitches— 

                            —he always told me that he wanted
    the New Year’s Eve ball to snap from its cord and shatter on the pavement—
                                                                  so much glass and glitter—

—later, we became men, cold and ashen, with brittle
                                                                     smiles and graying hair—our bones
                                                  clattering so loudly that I could hear the noise
                                                                  through all the years since I last touched him—

—he was never one for attrition—he preferred the cinematic perfection
                                  of a clean break—

                                   I could’ve reached my hand right through his chest
                                               but he never let me—

As teenagers we climbed the ladder to his attic—built a nest there—
           spent whole days kissing on blankets—leaving only to ride our bikes to the river,
                                 where we swam in the dirty shallows—

For years I had dreams that he died atop a very high mountain,
       among white winds of snow like the wingbeats of angels and ribbons of light—
                    rainbows cut loose from one end of the earth—set to flapping and fraying—


SANDRO ORTEGA-RIEK  is a Nicaraguan-American writer based in Arizona and Southern California. His work can be found in Entropy and other publications online and in print. He writes movie news for mxdwn.com and works at a special collections library.