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Back to Where
Misty Swift

I popped a Valium before the flight and there I sat stricken with a fat-tongue to language that had ceased to be words and was now a crystalline transmission broadcast from somewhere within my psyche. I didn’t ask his name, my friend’s. To describe him would be to look into a mirror and change before it. Nothing about him was human, the body seemed slight and perfect, a mere container for the life within, life like that of growing things, growing plants and trees.

Two days earlier I wore the ill-fitting red bridesmaid’s dress and forced myself to smell my gardenia corsage while my younger sister Myra said, “I do”. My own love had morphed into the feeling that I was always forgetting something. Biting my lip, letting my heart break one final momentous time, then again at twelve o’clock in the morning on the 210 freeway, pulled over alongside gushing traffic. Waking one Monday to David saying, “I had a dream you left me”. All I could do was to apologize. I gathered the books I wanted. I stole his early edition Arabian Nights while he tossed my clothing and other various things that meant nothing, landed in the car park.

Standing on the gazebo covered with make-up and hair-gunk my sister said she didn’t care who saw my tattoos at her wedding not knowing that they were reminders of sacred transgressions tattooed over scar tissue, superficial wounds that beautified the real infirmity. The stupid maddening motion of once again promising never to deny yourself and slowly, becoming shadow. I wanted a matronly garb with boning and layers, red, rich and deep. The dressmaker said she intended to show off my legs.
On the plane I must have asked all the questions turning in my mind while my slow tongue mocked me. To try to hold onto it, which I have, is to make a rudimentary bastardization of something that seemed to have been true, brief and miraculous. The teenage couple to the right stopped sucking face. The old ladies on the other side with straw hats and lavender clothing stopped talking over their plans. It was quiet. What I do remember is that nothing said was of any surprise, in fact, that was precisely what it was. And indeed there I was right there before me in someone else’s face. We landed and he said, “Do not deny” and kissed me briefly.

Calling Father, I saw the two old ladies were buying lays. It angered me to see money being exchanged; already the whole thing was botched. I wondered if father would have a lay, maybe flowers for me. I wondered if that would be good or bad. “Do not deny what?” I asked myself, knowing damn well the answer and always being stricken by the potential of things. Being ashamed at my own power. Impulsively bowing my head, my voice taking on a sweet-false note that made my sister cringe to hear it and yell at me and ultimately stop calling. It hurt too much to see was all she could say. She hated anyone who would call me sweet, saying, “They don’t know you at all.” Perhaps they did, I thought. I had become all my supposed-to’s. I had not seen Father in fifteen years and I should puff-up, be strong and powerful, if only to spite him. I should be damn well disagreeable. But I just couldn’t muster it; I was the non-me of the “me” I had once become. The child he had walked across the street holding by the nape of her neck.

My father had four sons, two of them my half-brothers, two of them stepbrothers. He told me “Thank God they’re boys”. I saw his weight, his poverty, how in his own cyclic motion he had lost everything and was working hard while trying to hide it from me. I saw his sad eyes searching for certainty and was thankful that he had pointed out the way the light refracted on the leaves of our tree when I was seven.

Standing on the porch, I rocked my six-month old brother Ian in my arms and whispered into his ear, hearing the bamboo sing in the wind that swept low and rattled the roof at night. I left a week early. I didn’t wait for father’s sad testimony of guilt and regret. He passed right through me as did the wind and the rain and shadow that would become light again before the two o’ clock showers.

Misty Swift is an English major with interests in philosophy, mythology, lingiustics, and sound engineering. She is also editor-in-chief of Voices.

 

 

 

 

 
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