Sara Cho Stailey, “Water Jinn” / Samantha Cerpa, “Coconut Milk”

“Water Jinn,” Sara Cho Stailey, Watercolor, 2020

Coconut Milk

Samantha Cerpa
When you’re a child, you crave for a keepsake of physical touch 
from a being who shares the same scarlet liquid that swims 
in your veins. 

They love you unconditionally, much to your dismay. 
Dismay because once you’re growing, you shake your head away 
from their long, wrinkled, bony fingers. 
You struggle to sit still while their cuticles sink their way into your scalp. 
Don’t worry, they will never harm you. 
In fact, you crave this touch. 
It’s warm, it’s affectionate, and it smells like coconut milk. 

She smiles down at you, your eyes blissfully closed while your legs ache
from sitting too much. 
A comb glides through your hair. and effortlessly, you recall 

a time your legs couldn’t touch the floor. 
Your hair was shorter and now it’s stained 
with colored paint, yet its scent 
is so sweet. 

She notices you smiling to yourself but chooses not to remark on it. 
Bittersweet silence fills the bedroom, and an awful
feeling coats your stomach that dreads the day after tomorrow.
But with your head tilted upwards and your neck starting to redden,
your scalp pulses, and your hair is no longer touching your back.
You open your eyes to meet her eyes–
there’s that familiar smile. 

The kind of smile that your three foot self would run home to. 
The kind of smile that, no matter how many wrinkles appear on her
paintless canvas, remains the same. 
You take everything for granted in that moment you open your eyes.
You feel your scalp moisturized, and the scent of shea butter, argan oil, 
and coconut milk runs through your nose. 
It smells the same, exactly the same. 
Just like all those years ago.
Except now, things have changed: 
Your feet now touch the floor. 
Your metal wires that fenced your entire mouth are unchained. 
Your stubborn fat that hung loosely against your belly receded. 
Your high-pitched voice that babbled dramatically and wailed desperately 
has lowered with a string of curses and glorifying snaps. 
It’s horrifying, really. 
That little child would have crippled glaring up at their 
own appearance. 
It’s a funny thought actually. 
Your appearance changed–your beliefs changed–your values changed. 
Your love remained the same. 

It’s reflected and pure and effortless. 
While she stares down at you and pats your head with a completed gesture, 
you somehow feel one foot shorter again. 
It’s bittersweet–like the taste of coconut milk. 
You smile and look towards the glass wall that copycats your entirety 
and run your hand through your woven scalp. 
It is now completed. 
Your childhood foundation. 
Your bloodline alignment. 
Your protected tapestry that lays upon you to shield you from the sky. 

Your hair. 

Sara Cho Stailey is the owner and creator of Liminal Heart Studio. She dabbles in woodblock printing, oil painting, and watercolor.  Her handmade whimsical creations are inspired by nature and animals. Favorite subjects include anthropomorphic animals, rabbits, figures, and surreal landscapes.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/LiminalHeartStudio

IG: @liminalheart_

Samantha Cerpa is a literary student at Phoenix College studying journalism in hopes of one day building her future career as a published writer. She’s an advocate for student life and leadership and is secretary for PC United student government. She enjoys coffee, Disney movies, and communicating and building relationships with others. 

IG: @sam_i_samurai