by Beth Burrell

by Maya Linsley

I found love in the plastic heart of a run-down souvenir shop. Sweat had dried in a sticky landscape across my back, and I was out of breath from the sheer force of the midday sun, and I was standing in between racks of joke tees and listening to the rumble and buzz of Los Angeles. The city of angels tossed up halos of murky pollution, palm trees stretching spindly bodies up to the unforgiving sun.  

Earlier on, strolling down the wide boulevards, each palm had seemed to me a fantastic revelation. Where I came from there were no palms. But in the souvenir shop, peering past the sleepy cashier and out the grimy windows, the palms looked like skeletons. I sifted listlessly through the joke tees. 

We’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky, Sting promised quietly from the ceiling speakers. 

“As we lie in fields of gold,” I rejoined under my breath.  

All the shirts were for men. It didn’t matter to me, nothing in that shop mattered to me; it was the A/C that I came for, and for the A/C I’d stay. It took me a while to realize all the shirts were poking fun at love. I’ll kiss you in the rain so you get twice as wet, teased one. I enjoy long romantic walks down the wine aisle, proclaimed another. I shoved through the hangers faster, irritation building in my belly – and then, two racks away, the sleeve of a shirt caught my eye; it was bright turquoise, my favorite colour. YOU HAVE FOUND LOVE, it announced. 

“Huh,” I murmured to myself. “Look at that. I’ve found it.” 

I blew twenty-five dollars on the shirt and slipped out again into the merciless California sun. The palms seemed to shimmer above me, uncertain of their own forms, melting like spindly candles. Poor things. If a tree war were ever to break out, the pines back home would beat these skinny things into mulch.  

I continued on down the street, going nowhere, and studied each person I passed. And I wondered if any of them knew what it was like to find love.