He strokes the knobby waves bobbing along the curve of my back, a bone caterpillar
What does it feel like, to be? He whispers
Heavy, I say. Like I am underwater, but can never surface for air.
What does it feel like, to not be?
Finally, he breathes. Like nothing at all.
That sounds nice, I sigh.
And I lay in his arms, trying to remember how nothing feels.
But no matter how hard I try, I cannot remember
When I was a little girl, my ankle snapped, a six year old fumble down a flight of stairs. For weeks, the knobby curve of my foot was wrapped in a coat of itchy plaster, rulers and forks alike never quite able to reach the itch. Six weeks later, when the under of my arms fit snugly with the clicking of crutches, the plaster was removed. I remember watching my leg float into the air, marvelling at how light it felt, a strand of web free from the branches which once grounded it. I was sure this is how flying must feel.
That’s how I think it will feel, when my body remembers. When it remembers what it’s supposed to do, and forgets everything which it shouldn’t. I lay my lashes to rest while the stars swing gently in the darkness, vines of twinkles, and I try to imagine how light it will feel. I try to picture how high I will fly.
I see you every day. The lazy tap out the car window, the toxic dust running freely in the gutter. Your aviators rest in the ledges of your cheekbones. You are beautiful. And then the deliberate exhale of smoke from your rose petal lips. I see your petals wither and die, a crumbled mess. But you don’t feel the petals drop, one by one around your too young toes. You just see how pretty you look with death nestled between your fingertips.
My heart is underwater, a sluggish stroke. The little circled powders drag it through the tide, the black spots in my eyes dancing behind. I am gabbling into the phone, Are you having sex? She shrieks. And we laugh because breathing isn’t quite so exciting. Each ivory bone chimes a scream, a wind chime of agony. He is a good brother, he heats up the only pain relief, the microwave talking in beeps. Mummy rubs my hips, while Daddy holds my hand. It will be ok, they hush. And I see their eyes try to believe their own words.
Today, I am going to take your light, and cloak you in heavy. I am going to pull each individual strand from your pretty, smoking scalp, and watch you shop for coverings with friends. I am going to snake tubes through each nostril, which once sighed tobacco, and drip feeds, poison and life into your ashen veins. Today, I am going to mark your porcelain skin in the ocean ink, and watch you wince while they remove another jigsaw piece that showed up on the scans. Today, you will wipe the vomit from your rose petal lips. They aren’t so pretty anymore.
Today, I am going to be ok. One day, the heaviness will leave, and lightness will fill every rotted speckle, until I shine too bright. One day, I am going to be ok, but Her and Him and Them are not.
Today, we do not get a choice, and you do. But you choose it anyway.
And for your sake, I hope that your body doesn’t forget.