art by Stephen James Kiniry
Like Origami in Water
by Damien Walters Grintalis
Johnny is angry again. I hate this part, but I won't try to stop him. I would feel the same way, too.
"It's not fair," he yells, spit flying out of the corners of his mouth. "And it's not right. Why can't they figure out what this is? Why can't they fix it?"
Music blares from the speakers. The walls are paper-thin, but our neighbors are not home. Johnny shouts over the lyrics, demanding to be heard. He paces back and forth in our tiny apartment with its drafty windows, his walk an awkward, lurching stumble. He only has one toe left, the baby toe on his left foot. And in the space where his other toes used to be?
Nothing. Nothing at all.
"Eventually you won't even remember what I looked like," he says and sinks down on the floor, holding his hands around his head.
I shut off the music and sit down next to him, breathing in his scent, a soft, musky smell with something new hidden underneath, a smell like charred wood in a long dead fire. "That's not true."
"I'm only twenty-six years old. It's not fair." He holds out his arms. The inside of his elbows are marked with swirls of purple and yellow. "I'm not going back to the doctors anymore. What's the point? They don't have any answers. They'll just stick me in a corner room and stare at me like a circus freak."
I take a sheet of paper and fold it until a dragon appears, the paper slick beneath my fingers. I learned how to fold paper from my mother, as she learned from hers. She told me her mother learned from Akira Yoshizawa, the great master of paper folding, when our family still lived in Japan. Washi, the traditional paper, is the best to use, but I make do with the paper I find in craft stores, even though it tears easily if I'm not careful. My mother says the best origami holds something inside--love or anger or hurt. Something to make it real.
I set the dragon on the floor next to my feet. Johnny saves them all, even the ones that turn out wrong. He lines them up on the windowsills and calls them his gargoyles. They're not watching out, but watching in. Watching him.
"I'm glad my parents are dead," he says. "So they don't have to see this." He grabs my hand and gives it a tight squeeze. "Will you stay with me all the way to the end?"
"I'm not going anywhere. I promise."