Anya Drapkin and Darice M. Jones

Anya Drapkin
Inspiration piece

Leaping Through Elements of You
By Darice M. Jones

Limbic Ikande was a curious African child born the heart of the often sunny but much maligned city of Oakland, California. An almost 16-year-old lanky, hickory brown Blerd (the current name for Black nerds), Limbic longed to see the city his activist (with full-time day jobs) parents had described from their own childhoods. Their chocolate city was the place where Black people owned a lot of property, owned a lot of businesses, and hung out at the Lake Merritt, the city’s crowning jewel, in droves on Saturday afternoons. Despite all the police harassment they’d also described, it sounded like a Black mecca to Limbic. His parents always seemed so happy when talking about the good old days.

Limbic’s Oakland was less chocolate, less friendly, and less upwardly mobile than the one his parents reminisced about. He figured he would have to travel to Atlanta to see something similar now.

But because Limbic was obsessed with nature, with science, and with magic, instead of traveling to Atlanta where he was pretty sure he had and Uncle and some cousins who could house him for a Summer, Limbic decided to travel to the future. He knew it was time for him to become bolder and move out of his parent’s shadows. His body had grown rapidly over the last 6 months and his voice had taken a dive into depths that startled even himself sometimes when he spoke. He sounded like an actual grown man, just with the urgency of a kid. His Mom, Stephanie, would look over him for so long now, before he left the house, like she was trying to accept what she saw before her. It was like what she saw, his growth spurt, made her apprehensive and sad. His Dad, Mike, started doing a lot of awkward stuff since his voice changed, like assuming every time he needed a ride somewhere there was a girl there that he was sneaking off to see.

Limbic wasn’t sure what, if any, gender he was fully into. He knew he wanted someone to be close to and to confide in though. Maybe his friend Arique was going to be that person, but he didn’t know for sure. Arique was a blend of the best so-called girl and guy qualities, and some other qualities that were too big for gender categories. Something about Arique made Limbic feel strong and willing to take risks. Arique was more than just a masculine presenting, self-proclaimed girl who always seemed to have her hand somewhere on Limbic’s body whenever they talked. She was into science and comics and magic too. She was as tall as Limbic, but was more firm than him in her thinking.

Arique’s presence with Limbic in the family’s big back yard had taken Limbic’s feelings to another level. How could Arique be so many good things at once? When Limbic stuttered through telling Arique about his plan to travel to 2035 when Oakland was likely to have returned to its once esteemed place as a chocolate city, her only response was, “Bet. How can I help?”

Limbic knew he wanted someone to be close to because of what his parents had. He liked the way one of his parents would sometimes just observe the other as though they couldn’t believe their luck. He liked the way they would feed off of each other when one had a grand idea and still be up talking about it in the middle of the night when he got up to pee. Oh, and how they would laugh and laugh at things he sometimes didn’t get, but they’d reach out and grab him, pulling him into it, wrapping him up in their laughter.

And when they argued, they didn’t send him away like he’d seen other parents do. Instead, they invited him in to grapple with the questions of life too. Some nights when he’d get up to go pee, they’d be sitting in the living room doing some shared bit of magic. An object would be randomly floating in the air between them. Colored lights would be coming off their backs like lazars bathing the windows and bookshelves in a prism glow.

When Limbic asked his Mom about magic, she said, “Well child, yes, we’re magic-wielding beings for sure. It’s not something to make a big deal about.”

Limbic had replied by pointing at himself with a question on his face. “Yes, boy, when I say we, I mean you too. But me and your Daddy have the same type of gifts. Yours is different from ours. That means you’ll have to go on your own journey of discovery. For once, we can’t tell you what to do,” she laughed. Limbic laughed too, but he left that conversation feeling uneasy.

When Limbic asked his Dad about magic, he said, “You can’t use it to get girls. Let’s just be clear about that first and foremost. It’s all about being honest, son. It’s all about being respectful. It’s all about consent, yours and theirs. It’s all about clarity. Once all that is handled, then you gotta let yourself feel the moment.”
Limbic snapped his Dad out of his musing. “OK Dad, but what about my magic?”

“Oh yeah, boy, you got hella magic in you. Let me know when you find out how to start using it. Just know I got your back,” he responded soberly.

So now that Limbic was here in the backyard with Arique, bending beech wood to create a portal that would lead them to 2035, he felt crazy. Why hadn’t he pushed his parents for more information? Why hadn’t he spent more time thinking this through? What kind of body oil was Arique wearing? It smelled a little too good and it was friggin’ distracting. How could he ask for her help if he didn’t even really know exactly how to use his own gift? His gift, as it turned out, was telling circles he created what they should become.

He had only been working on it for a few weeks. He noticed that every time he was focused on a circle super intently, wild shit would start to happen. Three circles he was doodling with Arique’s name in the center had jumped right up off the sketchpad in his bedroom and floated right in front of him. They’d just hung there with this weird bounce, that he was almost sure was a question. He was so shocked that he’d swallowed his gum the wrong way and started coughing uncontrollably until his Dad rushed in with water.

“You OK boy?” his Dad said, concerned.

“I’m gonna go with yeah,” Limbic coughed out. “Just because it’s easier.”

By the time his Dad entered, the dancing drawing was no longer on his sketch pad and no longer floating in the air. Where the hell had it gone, though? Now, every time he looked in the bathroom mirror, he half expected to see the circle and Arique’s name to be dancing behind his head, mocking him. Since that day he’d done a lot with circles. He learned that circles he drew, or shaped out of something, had a life of their own and would wait for his suggestion about what they should become. He’d also learned, hanging with Arique, that her gift was infusing things with water or, well, her essence. Their gifts worked similarly. When she touched something, she could choose to move some of her essence into that thing and then make suggestions about how it should behave.

Today, they were going to combine their budding magics and see whether their unity could create a portal. 2035 felt really far away. Still, the teen magicians on Netflix shows were always randomly trying out risky ass spells and they seemed to come through alright.

There are a lot of ways to bend wood, but water bending is the most tried and true method. Limbic had been touching every piece of wood now sitting on the backyard table, all week and talking to it, even though it wasn’t in a circle yet. His instincts were telling him that what he focused on and spoke his voice into the tree branches, they would respond to him. By today, he was feeling very connected every piece of bendable beech wood in front of him. He was also feeling connected to Arique, who had on a tank that highlighted her biceps in a way that hit Limbic as hard as her body oil had.

They sat side by side and Arique infused the beech twigs with her water, bending them carefully, weaving them into each other like the braids woven atop her own head. She knew this weaving process well, even though this was her first time bending branches. Limbic also knew how to braid, from doing his Mom’s hair, so he placed his hands in the mix with Arique’s and together they made the most beautiful braided circle. Hands touching, they looked at their work with pride. They looked at each other with anticipation.

“What exactly are you gonna tell it?” Arique asked.

“First I am going to thank it for being in our lives, and for being receptive to your water, and to our bending,” Limbic replied.

Arique looked impressed and gave Limbic’s hand a tight squeeze where they were both still holding on to the wreath/portal and each other.

“Then I am going to ask it to become a portal to the year 2035 where Black families of all kinds have returned to Oakland and are thriving.”

“What if that’s not what’s happening in 2035?,” Arique questioned.

“Well, I have to believe it’s happening on some plane of existence. I’m also going to ask it to become a thing that can withstand anything attempts at destroying it, that becomes invisible at my command, and that stays within 5 feet of me at all times,” Limbic answered.

“OK. That all sounds good. But maybe just to be safe, you should just stick your head in first.”

“You’re right.”

“For sure I’m right.”

Together, Limbic and Arique lifted up their creation, feeling it’s magic and its weight. They both listened with amazement at Limbic’s grown man baritone as he coaxed the wood with what sounded like a poem, a prayer, and a song all at once. Arique realized she was feeling Limbic’s words in her soul, because she’d infused their portal with a piece of her essence. She had to lean her head on Limbic’s shoulder for a moment and just breath into his bass-filled incantation. They both watched the wood transform from a huge wreath-looking thing into swirling, swishing, twirling, popping, sparky, wily, multicolored energy.

“You know what?” Limbic said, as they both stood upright staring at the circle’s transformation with true wonder. “When I go through, it’ll be like I’m walking right through your energy. I mean, that’s a lot, right? Are you still good with that?”

Arique kept her eyes on the portal and smiled big. “This is actually our energy combined. And woah! We are totally amazing. This is literally my core meeting your voice. So, we absolutely have to see what’s on the other side. I mean, yo, Limbic my dude. We have to.”

Limbic exhaled from deep within himself, feeling a new clarity.

“Right. We have to.”


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