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By Och Gonzalez

As if on cue, in the middle of March of this disastrous year, the whole world started baking, as if all at once a siren song rang out and people stirred awake and remembered they were once bakers in their past lives, and tins and pans clanked out of dusty cupboards while people cracked eggs into wells of flour and coaxed them into balls of dough, kneading and pounding and rolling and watching yeast make holes in it the way fear does in people, making all kinds of bread—raisin, rye, banana, cinnamon rolls, and of course, the highly aspirational sourdough, among others—so much bread...while I, utterly useless in a kitchen, all I can do is watch the world bake in an effort to stay sane, and sing the first lines of “Aubrey”—a not so very ordinary girl or name / but who’s to blame—while I, a girl with a not so very ordinary name herself, but who can’t hear out of both ears, who only relies on reading people's lips to make sense of the world around her, can only think about all the lips disappearing in this season of masks, can only think about all the words getting trapped in a place where I can’t catch them—not a single one—and little by little I feel myself disappearing too, inch by inch like the topography of people’s faces have until all that’s left are their eyes, and I want to tear their masks off just so I could see their mouths, luscious, open, moving mouths to keep myself from dying but if I do that we could all literally die, and so I stay silent or talk to myself in the mirror, and I think instead about how, at the start of this year, the word “synchronicity” appeared on the pages in my journal, making more and more appearances until it had embedded itself in my subconscious, and I couldn’t tell you how this came to be, only that the word, perhaps, chose me, but in any case, I welcomed it with open arms because it struck in me so many images, images that appealed to my aesthetic—water ballerinas with their toes pointed above water, a rowing team, a troop of cheerleaders, a marching band—all of them imply movement; without movement, there can be no synchronicity, and I had no way of knowing then that synchronicity would soon manifest itself in my life and in the larger world in a manner I could never have dreamed of, like people all over the world getting stuck in their homes, some away from their families, like people’s chests rising and falling and gasping for air, like doctors and nurses moving in sync across countries, going through the same movements as they tend to these patients, like heads bowing down all over the world, like prayers to different gods shooting upwards with the urgency of a fighter jet—all of these synchronous movements having their origin story rooted in a tiny spiky ball of poison—all of these I certainly never foresaw when January first rolled in, and if I could only take the word and hurl it back to whatever blackhole it came from, you know I would, but it is what it is (oh, how I hate this saying but it’s true, isn’t it), and so I go back to watching the whole world bake so it doesn’t burn, and singing, no it never came around / if it did it never made a sound, and rowing my own boat round and round in my fishbowl of a house, my arms pulling the oars through the water in time with the endless ticking of the clock on my wall.

Och Gonzalez is a Filipino writer and artist, whose work in nonfiction has earned her a Palanca Award for Literature, as well as 1st Prize in the 2019 Coalition of Texans Against Disabilities’ Pen2Paper Writing Competition; her writing has appeared in Brevity: a Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction, Esquire Magazine, Panorama Journal of Intelligent Travel, Lunch Ticket, and elsewhere.

Art by Och Gonzalez.


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