Zoe did not look like water colors or speak like a brush,

but she was a painting.


I remember her house:

Right off of the boulevard, on the North side with the chain steakhouse.

She told me her address once in kindergarten:

421 Rubio St.,

the only street in the world, she told me, that sounds like rubies.


That was in Mrs. Norwood’s kindergarten class, when Zoey was still Zoe.

And because I liked Zoe, I tried to think about my street.

So, I said my street, Linda Flora, sounds like flowers, which she didn’t care about.


She was good at arguing, even a little combative,

which didn’t always work to her advantage.

But it was accepted, just like how all of us at the table agreed rubies were better than flowers.

She was good at laughing. Her laugh ripped from the sky and cascaded like hiccups– not very elegant, but human and pleasant.

She was good at finding special Japanese erasers (those SMILING DUMPLINGS) that no one else could find at the Sawtelle markets.

She was fearless, like when she got her tonsils out or had nothing to eat but a stick of butter in the fridge and ate in anyway.

She just couldn’t get to the blue-taped rug in time or sit still, which I didn’t mind.


Then in the 5th grade, Zoe noticed how short she was.

And then how short her name was.

And so she stretched her name on paper,

adding a “y” to the “e” even though it didn’t make a difference on air,

at the expense of everything else.


Her name was long, yes, but

Her eyes– were opal, teenagely racoonish and pulled closer together between her nose.

Her legs– were shorter from whipped cream and powder mac n’ cheese and breakfast links

and depression, which in turn, made

Her hair– pink and stressed and bristly,

Her laugh– coarse, like a rolled rug tucked under curses and things

and her words dull, her laugh dry, her palette gone.


When I found out what a florist was, I thought of Zoe.

But she wasn’t there to know

about my street, Linda the Florist, and that maybe florists were good like rubies

because the school asked Zoey to not come back by then.


So, I told my mom about Linda the Florist,

just like Royal Oaks The King, or Bristol St. The Chicken Neighborhood 

or Rubio Dr. The Special Ruby Cut Into Loops Like Cereal.

But we were not in Room 63, pasting cotton ball clouds to construction paper.

I didn’t like the way it came out. My mom wasn’t really impressed either.

Zoey would’ve probably forgot if I told her.


She was bothered with better and newer things.


I saw her recently. I saw Zoey.

She was smoking hukkah on a concrete sidewalk at night in November.

I couldn’t tell what was smoke and what was fog.

She couldn’t tell it was me.


Zoe? Is that you?


She’s friends with hipsters now.

They’ve got oily and stringy baby bangs, chokers that clench their necks.

They boast faded, fake, pink, sparkly tattoos or inked ones done by their mothers’ sewing needles.


Where are you? Where are you, Zoe?


Small, with a toothed hairband that’d comb your fluffy, blonde hair? Short, very short, with a smile like a shark? On the street like rubies?





KaylaCohen_GermKayla Cohen is a high school junior living in Los Angeles. Growing up has been no easy task for her, and writing has acted as an easy outlet for self-expression. Poetry and short stories are relatively new to Kayla. Germ is the first literary magazine to publish her work, and she extends her gratitude to the Germ editors and community. Kayla hopes to improve her storytelling and description skills, see real snow, and live in a poppy field.

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