I carry her in my fingertips when I’m far from home. Feeling the heat of her skin if I press thumb and index finger together hard enough. I can trick myself into her softness if I brush my thumb…
It’s hard to know when a piece is done, but with this story I knew it was basically where I wanted it to be as soon as I finished writing it. A rare gift in writing and one I often second guess. “Buoyancy” started in a writing challenge. The wonderful Monet Thomas has been running sex writing challenges for several years and I always sign up for them. Having the strict parameters often pushes my writing in interesting ways, with a goal to finish a piece within the month the challenge takes place.
The challenge that spawned “Buoyancy” was to write a piece containing sex and all five senses. I’ve always been someone who bombastically embraces the senses but the idea of getting a concrete sense (don’t pardon the pun, it’s always intended) of all five of them into one very short piece was the kind of puzzle that makes my brain gleeful.
While this challenge was the impetus, there’s still the spark of a story that’s needed. For me, this came from a few different places. The first is that I love writing stories about astronauts—highly competent people in situations that require precision and control while experiencing something very few people get to witness—the expanse of the universe, the weightlessness of space. The second was something my partner, who works in the space industry, had mentioned to me: that astronauts who have been in space will often come back to Earth and still be in the mindset of being gravity-free, they’ll drop things because they’re used to the objects staying floating in the air. What, I wondered, is it like to be conscious of being weightless?
For me, the senses have always been a way of grounding myself. They have their own weight, the way they anchor us to some memories. With this in mind, blending the five senses into the story became much easier. Each moment of a sense needed to have an anchor to it, something that connected the main character to the person they loved.
The final piece of the writing came with the first line. Once I knew the main character was carrying the weight of someone they had lost and what that might mean when you can’t feel any weight at all, the story mostly wrote itself. That’s also a gift in writing I never take for granted, a weightlessness in itself.
CHLOE N. CLARK is the author of Collective Gravities, Your Strange Fortune, and more. Her forthcoming collections include Escaping the Body and Every Song a Vengeance. She is a founding co-EIC of Cotton Xenomorph.