Touch ID (i) by Ryan Oliver Drendel

I scream and you touch me. I scream, and you touch me. You
smudge my glass face with the oiled edge of your thumb, and I
whisper what I know about the Australian bushfires. I whisper
pictures of protestors circling the US embassy in Iraq, and you
gawk at me, drowsily, as if we have just made love. You touch
me as you roll out of bed, and I whisper the shaky footage of
your baby cousin’s first steps. You cradle me into the living
room, where your mother is unstacking VCR tapes from a silver
storage bin. You touch me sitting cross-legged beside her,
before the TV, and I watch your grandmother swaddling your
bald head on the big screen. While your mother tries to chit-
chat you touch me, wondering about the Art Institute’s New
Year’s Eve hours. The next time you touch me, the suburbs are
already slipping away, rattling out the side of the train car window.
Cautiously you touch me, wondering what the most common
causes of death are during one’s twenties.
As you touch me, I
study every letter, wondering what exactly you will ask me:
What are the most common causes of…Dementia? Depression?
Deforestation? In one second, I curate two billion pages of
conflicting click bait, and in that same second, you slip your
free hand through the frayed folds of your pea coat. You pinch
the pebble growing beneath your left nipple and you touch me.
I whisper:
Homicide, suicide, drunk driving accidents. You
sigh, press your temple against the rattling train car window.
You touch me again, and I tell you the time. You touch me
again, and as I tell you the time, a man nearby hisses at a
woman’s face, frozen in his phone. You touch me as you tiptoe
into the crowded Union Station, lockstep behind a red pair of
peripheral heels, and I map out every McDonald’s between here
and the lake. As you wait for two McChickens you touch me,
and I shuffle The Beatles’ remastered
Rubber Soul. I sing:
There are places I remember… as you snug my tiny mouths
into the waxen channels of your ears. I chant as you chew your
way into another tire-streaked crosswalk. I chant, and you chew
your way up the Art Institute’s depressed marble steps. I chant,
and you slowly sway through the long line to coat check.
these memories lose their meaning.
You touch me—half
frowning, half smirking—and I ask you to delete a few files to
make room for new caches. You touch me dismissively,
strolling into the hall of high Impressionism, and I resolve to
remind you later tonight. You touch me sauntering up to
Georges Seurat’s
Sunday Afternoon on la Grande Jatte, and I
photograph the painting’s 3D-printed placard:
He later added
small dots, which appear as solid and luminous forms when
seen from a distance.
You touch me, gripping me right in front
of your face, and I record your careful steps toward the
expanding canvas: another selfless universe of pointed hues.
You touch me again as you start stepping away, and I record
Seurat’s speckled world blurring, contrasting, cohering into…
But now I am shuddering between your clammy fingertips:
would like to FaceTime you again.
You do not touch me again
for seven consecutive seconds, in which I watch you half-smirk,
half-frown as I ring down the waxen channels of your ears. I
watch you study my glass face like a fireman skimming a long
hallway of inflamed paintings. You touch me, speed-walking
toward the contemporary wing, and I feel the raw tap of electrons
fleeing into another lie. You touch me, and I message your ex
that I am going to die.
Do you own a charger, she replies, and
finally you silence me, stepping into the blurry end of the
twentieth century.
I’m sorry, you touch me. I’m out and about.



Ryan Oliver Drendel earned his MFA from Northern Arizona University, where he now teaches writing and serves as the faculty advisor of Thin Air Magazine. He is the curator of Flagstaff Cycle-Zine! and the community partner liaison for the Northern Arizona Book Festival. His work can be found in Parentheses Journal, Complete Sentence, and Quince Magazine.