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