The calm, cool surge of midnight under congested skies, the one night of pure humidity.
The next morning it will be a dream when sizzles of light scorch from adobe rooftops.
Sheets, ancient and faded purple, make the only tangible sound in the dusty dark.
Droplet. Dripping down from a squeegee of cotton in the brown water of the garden pot.
My eyelids move quickly to keep up with beat.
Woosh, tap, rustle, snap.
A line of rope awaits, ripe with eucalyptus oils.
Spreading the cloth, the patterns reveal themselves.
Sleep well, they say. Don’t worry. The morning is bright.
It looked disgusting. Yellowed and rotting with sweat, drool, and tears. The remains of a fitted stocking ripping off the strange foam core. “It’s for you. You love this pillow.”
I was overjoyed. I loved him.
His entire bed was “Tempurpedic.” When we lay next to each other we each melted into perfect molds of ourselves, resting in our own body heat and window cool. On a small mattress we managed to sleep in peaceful shrimp curls, knees against calves, nose to spine, pillow shared. The mysterious ticking in his ceiling persisted. A pipe? A mouse?
Locks flowing and growing into a mane of silk of sheep fur of nest of bark of tree of mess and tangle.
Learning to care for the strands that fought with the comb in the lady’s hands, that resisted the the curious fingers, that refused to lie tame or flat in mist—my first personal responsibility.
Carefree and weightless before adolescence, I could swing from my knees and cut angles through the tide with my sharp cartwheels. And then I had to attack the dread lock.
I envied the glistening smooth heads of girls, smelling like laundry soap, with easy hair.
We each had to take one vial. Inside, a green liquid jiggled and an eerie light shone through.
“Do not drink until you are told,” a voice announced in a monotone.
Around us, four corners revealed four musicians, frozen and ready.
“You may drink now,” the same voice said.
I hesitated and looked at Kyle to see if he would drink neon green out of a test tube. We each tilted back the contents. A sweet, spicy, and intoxicating jolt of sour filled my head. I looked at the audience, doe-eyed, blinking. We peered over the banister. The show began.
With every pop I imagine a blister exploding white and pink. Thin skin unable to maintain the pressure—the built-up pressure; the final end to an ephemeral tenderness. No, I am not talking about pimples. I am referring to the large bubble wrap that my mother receives along with her photography equipment. That thick roll of plastic held apart by air, easy to destroy with sweaty feet. My brother and I are restless and ready for unwarranted revenge. We switchblade our knees and let gravity pull our femurs vertical, ending the powerful movement with the aggression of our heels. Pop!
We had to move quickly. For four weeks we dreamed days and walked in our sleep. Five hour sheets. Sometimes we did not see sheets at all, and during those moments I felt grateful for the sleeping sack that I composed out of a cotton cloth and lugged around with me. For four weeks our waking hours were timeless transitions between sleep and the next goal. The moments that felt slow—sitting in a plastic chair for several hours after we finished our chai; allowing ourselves time to explore one small stretch of street for four hours—reminded us we were awake.
Dance class with Ellen on Wednesdays.
My leotard fits like a wetsuit. The neck clamps onto my skin under my collarbones, and my thighs feel suppressed. Today Ellen wants me to hold a yellow scarf while crossing the room diagonally. She loves it when we are graceful. Maybe I could be graceful if my leotard did not feel like a vice. She wants all of the girls to look the same on Saturday. We are turquoise and shiny like spandex, but without the stretch of spandex. Our waists are crushed like tight denim jeans.
Dance class with Ellen on Wednesdays.