1. He thinks, in pauses, if Khanh is a book he’s reading, and if the story already ended when its climax began.
2. Beginning was when they first met in Giảng cafe and ordered the same tea. Khanh laughed at everyone’s joke including his no matter how lame it was, Khanh smiled into spaces, traces of Khanh imprinted on his warm hands and dry throat. Later, when Khanh let him kiss her for the fourth time, he would find out that she always orders the first thing on every menu because her hands start sweating if a waiter is staring at her. No one cracks jokes at the dining table Khanh and her parents sit around every night, not anymore. When Khanh smiles into spaces, she sees her brother.
3. This must be what Khanh’s parents feel like raising her brother and then her: roaming their hands inside a box of Mentos to pick and bite into a pill. In third grade, Khanh wrote in a yellow origami paper how she wished her brother would catch the bird flu and die. Half of her wish came true.
4. Khanh loves playing two truths and one lie. “Alright, Minh, here goes,” she says to him. “I killed my brother. I have AVPD. And I love you.”
5. “Will you love a family member if they are not your family and just a person you know?” Khanh asks him when she stops laughing. “See, the thing is,” she says, “when it comes to family, everything you have has to be enough.”
6. Enough anxiety could result to short-term memory loss, said Khanh’s psychiatrist. Before the house was burnt down, they found her sleeping in the third floor’s bathroom where the fire had not touched, having just enough air to make it out alive. Right above the kitchen, her brother’s room became black ruins. The siblings were arguing again the night before when cooking ramen and Khanh could not remember who was supposed to turn off the gas. When her mother pushed her against the gate of their house, her spine pressed against cold steel, Khanh realized she did not remember her brother’s last words.
7. Her brother comes back to her so often it feels like last words do not need to exist.
8. Existing is what Minh does, just merely survives, his head above the water while his body is drowning in her universe. He loses count of how many glasses Khanh throws away no matter what kind of smoothie he makes. Minh does not stop grinding her meds. Sometimes it works. Some other times, she talks to her brother.
9. Spoken words define the present, momentary but naked and nonfictional. If Minh finds bits of himself in the lyrics Khanh wrote, they are either in the past or future tense.
10. In the future, the bathroom door will still be closed. Minh will tell himself to stop counting how many nights before it has closed in front of him. “I can fit in a small space,” he will say again, “you can open it just a little.” “I love you” is what she will not say.
11. Khanh said before, when they first met, that she loved how he majored in political science because he’s so good with metaphors. Now Minh is running out of them.
12. Running is what everyone tells him to do when they hear who he’s dating. Running is what he does when Khanh does not pick up her phone, when he sees his closet lacking all her clothes and some of his t-shirts.
13. From the closet, a speaker plays a record on repeat, the sound of ukulele raw and bright. Her breathing in pauses soaks up all his oxygen.
14. Minh does not know what page he is in. Darkness swallows the light from his lamp.