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The Vanderbilt Review

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I’ve since come to realize that what I once thought was love

was nothing more than a misunderstanding of the world 


            I happened to share with him. 

            But at times I miss the bliss of mis- 

            understanding everything. When we 


could create the world as we wished. One where vampires

exist, for instance. And I can prove it to you, 


            he said to me. In a city I hated, I didn’t mind that he 

            didn’t know how to show his love for me, 

            so he screamed so much he thought he was drowning, 


and he didn’t care that only under bedsheets would I hold his hand. 

I can prove it to you, he said, and I opened my neck to him.


            His teeth were the horses I rode at my father’s 

            farm, stomping bruised footprints all over me. 

            It was not a bite, but a stampede. 


Both of us riding a sanguine high, I ran my hands over the bruises 

on my neck and looked away from him, mouthing I love you into the pillow. 


            But when the bruises didn’t go away, 

            he didn’t like the creature I became. 

            When I got a craving 


that wouldn’t fade, I learned the world with him 

was small, so small that I crushed it between my fingers. 


            The mush of earth and oceans slid from the pockets 

            of my hands, as brittle and sour as the skin 

            of the blackberries I picked on the farm. I poured 


the juice down my face, reveled in its acidity, at the

reminder that I too could bring myself elation


            framed as pain. That I was the arbiter of my own 

            emotions. But still the bruises didn’t go away. 

            I heard my blood slow, felt my face tighten


as it paled. I searched for another whose neck I would make my own. 

When I found him, it had been so long since I’d felt something alive.


            I barely dared go outside, and I was too scared 

            to look at myself in the mirror. But he didn’t believe 

            in vampires, and it was so nice, sharing breath with him.


I hoped he’d breathe hard enough into my mouth that I would come 

back to life. I was struck by how he was alive, by how my hand 


            stuck to the sweat on his back. He wrapped me 

            in his arms and I thought of my mother, of the pop 

            of homemade fireworks streaking through the yard 


on the farm. I missed the farm, missed summer, missed when coarse 

hay against my hands was more familiar than the taste of another.


            I opened his neck to enlighten him to this world of vampires 

            and misunderstanding, but I heard his blood rush and knew I wouldn’t, 

            not for anything in this world. I gave him only a kiss, and I let him go.


I hope one day I’ll look in the mirror and realize the bruises 

have already faded. That the wooden stake in my hand is no more


            than a vestigial structure from a past life. It will be

            the beginning and end. Alone in a room, imagining my blood, 

            coursing once more through my body, the only I love you my own.

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About the Contributor
Eli Apple, Contributor
Eli Apple (he/him/his) is a writer of fiction and poetry. He has lived his whole life in Tennessee and is currently a senior at Vanderbilt University, where he is studying English, Spanish, and Portuguese. In addition to writing, he loves reading, traveling, and going on walks with his dog.

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