By Emily Paige Wilson
Hypochondria has this reoccurring nightmare in which she owns wheat fields too large to harvest in time. She spends the dream running around in a pink nightgown, painstakingly trying to break each blackened grain off the stalk before it rots. Hypochondria once had lunch duty with Hades and he told her, “That’s some thorough grief you have.” She was pleased. She’s pulled out two teeth because she felt a filling split, pain spilling into her nerves like brides into soft gowns. Hypochondria must be so gentle now when she bites down and only smiles as wide as her pride will permit. Some time ago, Apollo was careless and dropped a sunrise onto her skin. It splashed and charred her arm, a second degree burn she nursed for weeks—all the while knowing the scar would be shaped liked a mountain range on which it never snowed. Her favorite color has always been beige. She lets the other gods think it’s because she’s boring, but she loves it—this, the first color clouds turn when they finally let the light in. Hypochondria is not looking forward to the advent of cars, all the hope she’ll have to hand out so people can get home safely. She’ll spend each night standing on the highway’s side in the four-legged, observant form of a deer.
Hypochondria can only watch scary movies if she knows the ending first—who lives, who dies, how long it takes the monster to forgive himself. Her favorite season is winter, in which there is no worry whether or not everything will grow. In which the snow—iridescent and unblinking—holds every footprint accountable. Hypochondria has a sneaky suspicion lady bugs live in her lungs. Why else would each breath feel full as an exoskeleton? Red as a spotted body? She wishes she could treat pain like a coin purse—something spare, sparse, to be exchanged for something else. Forgetfulness to Hypochondria is an igneous rock; a good night’s sleep is simply a thimble full of symbols and dreams. The one time she tried meditating, she cried at how orange the world around her was when she opened her eyes. She thought she was enlightened, but it was just the sunrise. She sprays her pillows with a cologne of sea foam and sage, reads in bed as her boyfriend Poseidon falls asleep next to her. She asked him once what “propinquity” meant and he said, “Given the choice of two plums, you will always have to choose one.” At least their future children, she thinks, will be born knowing how to swim, even if the horrible chore of dressing them will mean trying to mute the sickly blue of their skin.
Emily Paige Wilson’s debut chapbook I’ll Build Us a Home is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. Her poetry has been nominated for Best New Poets, Best of the Net, and multiple Pushcart Prizes. Her work can be found in The Adroit Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, PANK, and Thrush, among others. She lives in Wilmington, NC, where she received her MFA from UNCW.