when you finally find the means by which to claim it,
feels like a song: a lone, tastefully cracked voice hovering over acoustic guitar, strummed until the fingers ache and numb, but never break or bleed.
feels the way you imagine clouds do before some obligatory pedant tells you that they’re really just water vapor or condensation or whatever the hell they are, and that they do not, in fact,
feel like cotton candy without the sticky residue left on your fingertips, only the sweetness that lingers in your teeth and on your lips.
feels like the last three pages of your favorite book trapezing through your head while you sit cross-legged before the last fizzling sparks of the fire, and like starting over from the beginning again right after you finish, because you’ve bought yourself a priceless gift this evening: time.
feels like the first day you remember the sensation of sun on your cheeks after a soulless winter: the color gold, melted chocolate sunk into your tongue, a buttercup under your chin, “do you like butter?”
feels like every time you glimpse yourself in the mirror at six a.m., your hair a tangled halo around your head, your eyes pulled down by the weight of their bags, but you smile anyway, real slow, but with real meaning, because goddamn-it, you do like you after all.
feels most of all like running, running through the half-dusk in an open field, barefoot, the knowledge of your life crashing against your chest over and over, arms splayed out and open to every lovely and ugly thing in this whole world.
don’t let it go. and don’t you ever apologize.
Maddie Botti is a junior from just outside Boston, Massachusetts. Their work has previously been published in the Canvas Literary Journal, and they are a prose reader for The Stirling Spoon, an online literary magazine. Last summer, they attended the Iowa Young Writers' Studio. When they're not writing, their favorite things to do include learning punk rock songs on ukulele, reading sad books, and sending their friends an aggressive amount of AP Euro memes.