Saturday, May 05, 2007

Sixteen








"I want a motorcycle," I said. "I want a llama."

I sat on the couch between Merna and Anastasia. It was night. There were many lamps.

"I want Monopoly and Operation."

"Monopoly's terrible," Merna said. "It teaches selfishness and accumulation."

"What's accumulation?" Anastasia asked.

"It's nothing."

"Bet you don't know."

Anastasia wore her pink flower-print dress and sat cross-legged with her tiny hands holding her tiny knees. Merna's hair was long and wavy and draped thinly over her thin shoulders. I stared at my toes and wiggled my toes and watched my wiggling toes.

A tall man entered the room. The man's hair was very dark and short and neatly combed and the tall man's suit was gray-flannel. He wore a bright white shirt and a black embroidered tie. A wide overcoat hung from his shoulders and fluttered around his calves. He moved quickly and smoothly and almost appeared instantaneously before Anastasia, Merna, and me so that I gasped slightly and leaned into the couch. Merna combed her hair from her face and held it bunched together behind her and the hair was distant and inaccessible. Anastasia sobbed once, punctuatingly. The man stood, cliff-like and menacing in a nondescript way, monolithic, projecting a strange foreboding that at once felt omnipresent and source-less. His thin rectangular lips parted slightly so I could see the tips of his pale white teeth, each tooth unnaturally straight and parallel to every other tooth.

"This," the man said, holding out his hand, palm up.

The man's hand was flat but finely grooved and my eyes traced the hand-grooves circuitous route which was complex and overlapping and maze-like, city-streets from a jet-plane maybe, an elevation map of Lisbon with bus routes and tourist information. The man's fingers were focused and defined, but the room, the man himself, walls, furniture, paintings, all seemed faded and washed-out, gray and formless like a distant fog. I imagined carefully removing the hand with a scalpel and mounting the hand to a polished wood-block, a trophy with smooth groomed nails and tiny black finger-hairs. 'Polish the hand,' I thought. 'Build a glass-museum for the hand, hand-museum with five-hundred-thousand hands mounted to five-hundred-thousand wood-blocks and polished and dusted daily, or protected in thick glass-cases. Charge a minor admission-fee. Provide a three-hour guided-tour. "This is the tall man's hand," I would say, or "This was Kevin Costner's golfing hand." Maybe a history of the hand or hand-replicas hidden in dark mystery-boxes with felt-lined holes. Tactile-hands.' I wanted to touch the hand, to dust the hand, to eat the hand and absorb the hand and become the hand, to hold the carefully mounted hand with the hand, form the shiny wood-block trophy-hand into a fist, but the hand was un-mounted and un-amputated and solid and sharp and living.

"This," the man said again.

Anastasia stood.

Merna's head rested on the couch-arm. Her eyes were closed.

"You don't know what 'this' means," Anastasia said. "You're 'this.'"

"Look," the tall man said. He pointed. "This."

"Don't," I said. "Sit, Anastasia." I stood.

"Where?" Anastasia asked.

The man pointed. "This."

"Don't," I said. "Sit quietly on the couch with me. Close your eyes."

"I don't see." Anastasia moved her face close to the wall and touched the wall.

"Here," the man said. He held out his finely grooved hand. "This."

"Lisbon," I said. "No."

"This," the man said. He touched Anastasia. "This."

I closed my eyes very tight.





"No," I say. "That's wrong."

"What?"

"Wrong."

Merna has parked the car and we're standing in the driveway. Snow's falling again and it's cold and dark. The motion-sensor senses our motion.

We blink.

"Let's get inside," Merna says. "Do you have the key? My key only opens the back-door."

"No key."

I follow Merna along the narrow run between houses and Merna's indistinct before me. My feet and hands are cold.

Inside, we collapse onto my bed which creaks thinly. I yawn.

"This bed's not soft," Merna says.

"Soft bed's twist and contort spines and cripple you with arthritis or something."

"My bed's very soft."

"Which is why you're so bent-over and super-curved. Your birth canal's probably like a roller-coaster."

Merna yawns.

"You're babies will be curved babies with curved spines and curved foreheads because of your bed and you'll be sad for a while, then defiant. Deformed. Dangerous."

Merna doesn't answer.

"We should wake grandpa," I say. "It's practically morning anyway."

"Hmm."

"He probably went to sleep at like six o'clock."

"I wonder what Noah's doing."

"Grandpa could tell me why it's wrong," I say. "I don't know why it's wrong."

"What're you talking about?" Merna rolls onto her side and stares at the wall which is light-purple, but dark now with no light and almost invisible. "Noah's probably tired. Maybe he's sleeping now. Maybe I should call him."

"Fuck Noah," I say.

"He's at the hospital. He's helping people or something, or sleeping."

"Anastasia," I say quietly.

"Oh." Merna stands slowly. "This."

"I was thinking about Anastasia."

Merna stands and slowly points her eyes at my eyes then turns and I'm watching Merna's dark shadowy back and Merna's dark shadowy hair and Merna's dark shadowy walk as Merna silently moves out my bedroom-door. The stairs creak as Merna descends. I turn onto my side and watch my alarm clock which is digital and orange and bright. I imagine a soft dark snow-sound and I imagine a thin cold smell that's crisp and defined and makes me think of leaves and green things but frozen and rigid and in constant danger of crushing and the snow-sound's a crunching sound but faded and distant. I imagine a leaf very curved and fetal. I imagine a complex zigzagging wrinkle. I imagine one-million frost crystals.





It was night. I was in my bedroom. Anastasia lay on the floor. Merna snored noisily in her own room down the hall.

"Snore," I said. I laughed.

Anastasia didn't laugh.

"I want a goat or a cow," I said. "I want a pet, maybe, a jumbo-pet that's hairy or shaggy and savable or rescue-able. A pet that would usually be food or slave-labor or something but I would make it not-food with bows and things and put it in the backyard with hay, maybe, or maybe we need a bigger yard, like a big field that was a mini-world and many jumbo-pets and it'd be a jumbo-pet country, I think."

"Maybe."

"We could steal a cow and hide the cow in the backyard. Feed the cow grass and flowers and stuff. Take it for walks. Cow-bell. I don't know anything."

Anastasia wore her pink flower-print dress. I braided my hair and tied it tightly with thin white bows. Outside, bright snowflakes slowly fell.

The tall man silently entered the room. He held out his hand, palm up.

'Grooved,' I thought.

"I want something else now," Anastasia said. "What are you?"

The man shook his head. "This."

The man walked carefully into the far corner of my bedroom and, facing the corner, rested his dark elliptical head inside the corner and placed his hands on the adjacent walls. The hand's fingers were splayed and long and sharp. My hands seemed small with little clumsy fingers and I wanted suddenly to remove my fingers with garden-shears. "This," the man said.

Anastasia moved toward the man.

"No, Anastasia," I said. "Stay here."

Anastasia pulled the man's gray-flannel blazer. "What are you?"

"This," the man said. "This."

Merna's head appeared in my doorway. "Hey, quiet down. I'm trying to sleep. I have cheerleading tryouts tomorrow and I need to rest so I can be successful in the tryouts. I need to be beautiful and perfect and have the cheers memorized which is hard and requires concentration and sleep and I don't want dark circles or anything."

"But," I said.

"Don't be a bitch, okay. Just for tonight."

"Anastasia," I said. I pointed.

The man cried quietly in the corner. Anastasia sat cross-legged near his feet.

"Just be quiet, okay?"

"But."

"Complete silence."

Merna's head disappeared.

"Anastasia," I said. "Anastasia," I said again.





My cell-phone ring-tone song's playing.

My cell-phone ring-tone song is very sad and soft and makes me think of burning slow-motion children at recess or on the jungle-gym maybe or thirty-five-thousand miniature-people marching miniature-marches through tall and rugged grass-blades or across endless expanses of concrete. I open my cell-phone and place my cell-phone near my ear and my ear hears ragged digitized breathing. "Yes," I say. "What?"

"My head." It's Erik.

"Your head?"

"Aaron stabbed me or something. He stabbed my abdomen, I think, he might have stabbed my chest or neck."

"Oh."

"Or punched my eye. He could've punched my eye and mouth and broke my teeth. There's some blood, I think. A little blood. Call the police, you should call the police."

"You call the police. I have to sleep. I'm tired."

"My legs are broken."

I don't answer.

"Are you home? Should I come to the apartment? I want to play Grand Theft Auto or something, together."

"I'm somewhere else." I roll onto my back and shut my eyes. "You're injured? Shouldn't you go to the emergency room? Call 911 or something? Ambulance and police."

"I'm okay."

"But you're stabbed and bleeding with broken legs."

"I'm only stabbed a little. It's okay. Where are you? Video-game auto-theft fun-night. I can show you my stab-wounds and stuff."

"I'm sleeping somewhere. I'm okay."

"But I should sleep next to you because we're sleep-partners which is solemn or something, so tell me. I need to give you your watch which you left at the Denny's anyway. I'll bring it to you."

"Bring it tomorrow or the next day. Leave it at the apartment where I can pick it up whenever I want."

"No," Erik says. "Come meet me. Come to the mall. The mall parking-lot."

"I'm really tired." I yawn loudly. "We'll talk tomorrow."

"Meet me at Wal-Mart. I'll call Aaron. We can have a conference."

"I'd prefer not to."

"We have plane-tickets for you. To Lisbon. Flight leaves in three hours. You must go to Lisbon immediately."

"I'm turning off my phone."

"But we love you. We need to see you. To take you to Lisbon."

"I'm sorry."

"Come to Wal-Mart." Erik's voice is high-pitched and desperate.

"Bye."

"We'll rob the Wal-Mart if you don't come. Take hostages. Murder cashiers. Please help."

I turn off my cell-phone and place the cell-phone on my nightstand which is dark and wood and shadowy. 'Nickel nightstand,' I think. I remember buying the nightstand at a summer garage-sale. My grandfather bargained and paid. "Needs to be refinished," he said. "I'll give you a nickel," he said. Mrs. Morley, who was old and wrinkled and who's fingers were thin and twisted and rigid and who was moving to a rest-home in New Mexico said, "What do I care? It's older than me and should be retired." I said, "Thank you." "Your welcome," Mrs. Morley said. "Everything gets old and moves to New Mexico and dies." My grandfather lifted the nightstand. "Sometimes things go Saudi Arabia or Portugal and die," he said.

I can't sleep so I walk through my bedroom door and then slowly down the stairs which creak sharply as I step. I watch my feet as I walk and my feet are small and bare and narrow but flat and hard so that I can barely feel the floor with them. There's a light. I move to the light.

I'm in the kitchen.

Merna and my step-mother sit at the kitchen-table. There's coffee. The floor's cold.

"Good morning," my step-mother says. "Come sit."

I look at the clock. "It's barely two a.m." I watch my feet which are small and tight and aligned with the polished wood floor. "We should wake grandpa," I say. "Then it'll be like family-insomnia and we can play Monopoly or something and someone can own everything with hotels and houses and maybe build hotels on Baltic Avenue and conquer and win."

"Come sit with us," Merna says. "Leave grandpa alone."

My step-mother lays her head on the table and my step-mother's head is round and thin and the hair on the head's tangled and frizzy and I want to comb the hair and straighten the hair and make the hair orderly and calm and maybe braid the hair into one perfect hair-rope. I sit. It's late and early and today and tomorrow and my shoulders are tight and pained as though each shoulder-muscle and each shoulder-tendon are tensed and tied or maybe webbed and netted, and I imagine my netted musculature strung between cars with little neighborhood-dogs caught in the muscle-net and stuck to the muscle-web and waiting sadly to be rescued or to die.

Merna's hand touches my shoulder and we're touching slowly and tenderly 'which is strange and human' I think.

"Human."

"You're my sister," Merna says. "I'm sorry."





I was in the family-room, braiding my hair.

"You're my sisters," Merna said. "I'm sorry."

The tall man walked carefully into the far corner of the family-room and, facing the corner, rested his dark elliptical head inside the corner and placed his hands flat on the adjacent walls. The hand's fingers were splayed and long and sharp. The man laughed slowly and quietly.

We ignored him.

Anastasia lay between us.

My grandfather sat in his recliner, reading. He set his newspaper on his lap. "We should go to Portugal sometime," he said. "You'd like that wouldn't you. We could buy a small deli and make grilled-cheese sandwiches and sell them, maybe and live in a small farm-house with three dogs and goat and a cow."

"Maybe," I said.

"Portugal," Anastasia said.

"Yes," my grandfather said. "Lisbon."

2 comments:

BLAKE said...

this sometimes reminds me of 'twin peaks' which makes me happy

Ofelia said...

Thank you.