Wendy A. F. Green, Pixel Princess
A Hard, Fast Fall of Rain
We sat across the table, sixteen and eighteen. There had been a deep silence between us for a long time; longer, in fact, than either of us would choose to admit. My sister stared out the window vacantly for a few minutes, then looked at me and sighed.
"Your hair's getting long."
I set my toasted huckleberry muffin down. "That's generally what hair does. I haven't had it cut for a year." I took a swig of my milk, already warm from the sunlight coming through the window.
She heaved another sigh and pulled a lock of her Titian hair over her shoulder, fingering it idly. "This," she mused dreamily, "is a symbol." I looked up from my plate, not understanding. "Well, can't you see this flowing to my waist under cream lace, over antiqued satin?"
I looked at her steadily for a moment. "What kind of wedding do you want?" The question had a wicked gleam, as she didn't have a boyfriend, let alone a fiance. In all honesty, I couldn't picture her with either.
"Oh, a big cathedral wedding, with a huge reception."
Shrugging off the cliche answer, I returned to my muffin. The conversation was closed.
"'No' what?" I was not in a talking mood.
"I want a small church wedding...and a big reception."
"Oh..." I paused. "You won't, of course, invite people to the reception who weren't asked to the wedding?"
"God, no!" We both reflected for a moment on our father's second wedding, and our "beloved" stepmother. "I think it's tacky."
"Me, too." I reached for my muffin but it seemed to lack it's former appeal. "I want a big wedding. "
"Yeah, I can see you in a cathedral. Married by the Pope, of course?"
"No, a cardinal will do." We both laughed, but stopped shortly, uncomfortable. "But I do want a big wedding. Ushers, bride's maids, ring bearer--"
"Maybe I'll elope."
"You do and I'll find a new matron of honor!" I smiled, "Your daughter can still be my flower girl, though."
"And my son?"
"Oh, ring bearer, of course. In a dark velvet suit, knee britches and a wide collar."
"And a satin pillow, with the real rings tied on, not fakes!" Our faces were glowing, and the sunbeams danced on her flaming hair.
"You wouldn't really elope, would you?"
"No, I wouldn't. Not really."
"What is your dress going to be like?"
"Ohh!" I settled back, smiling broadly. "White. Lots and lots of white. Long, demure white satin sleeves...no, silk! Tight fitted bodice, with a high enough neck that I'm not showing anything more than my swimsuit shows--"
"Fat chance." I had a swimsuit with an unusually high neck.
"Ha, ha. Long skirt, floor length. An a train. Lace appliques. With little boys as pages!"
"With a train that buttons up like a bustle? And train bearers?" Her face was a mirror of that day's summer sun, bright with internal radiance. All in all, she looked more carried away than I was.
"Of course!" I responded with a haw-dumb-can-one-eighteen-year-old-be withering glance. "All long trains do that; and what do you think pages are for?"
"Oh." She looked crestfallen, staring at the plate in front of me.
"Um," I tried to think, "Um, well, what should my flower girl wear?"
"Oh, I don't know!"
"What!" Her tone was bitingly sharp.
"Red, no, crimson, or forest green, or midnight blue."
"With a lace collar?"
"But of course!" She exclaimed in her best Maurice Chevalier style. The apology accepted, forgotten.
"I think I'll have her hand a rose to the people on the aisle seats, instead of scattering petals. They're too slick."
"Oh! How sweet!"
"And have all the little kids in the pews follow us out on the way down the aisle."
"Yeah..." She sighed, contemplating, like a cat stretched out in the sun.
"I don't want you to go away."
"What? I don't--"
"To college. I'll be all alone. " Now it was her turn to look up, not understanding. "With you gone, I won't have...Well..." I made a few feeble gestures with my hands, and let it drop.
"Well, you have Daddy."
"Fat lot of good Daddy is! Oh, I love him and all, but he's never here, and when he is, he might as well not be. You're my...support system. Don't go." I searched her face, anxious. "Please!"
She forced a light laugh. "Oh, come on! 'Sides, OSU isn't that far away. Only eighty miles."
"I want to go, too."
"NO!" I stopped. "Well, anyway, I want to go out of state."
"Mmm," she gazed out the window.
"Ya know, I can't picture spending the rest of my life anywhere but here. It's kind of scary, so I have to leave...just to see what's out there. You, you're going to cruise about on research vessels and live in Hawaii and Australia--"
"And burn to a crisp?"
"But still, you can go in state. I need to sever myself, so my kids can go to my elementary alma mater."
"Can you handle it?"
"My kids going to--?"
"No. Me leaving."
"Well," I drew myself up haughtily, "I can cope. I've dealt with worse, you know. Besides, what can our 'lovely' stepmother do to me, anywho?"
"Well, you've borne the brunt of her for the past couple of years, I guess its my turn."
"But I always had you around to empathize. I'm sorry I--"
"She really is a torrid little witch, isn't she?" I grinned maliciously. "When she picked on me at first, you said I wasn't giving her a chance. Then," a steely glint in my eye belied my bitterness, "she wheeled on you. Tell me, was I wrong? Is she, or is she not, our cross to bear in life?"
She couldn't hold it back. My sister cracked up, her bright laughter filling the sunny room, my low rumble soon joining in. "I want my teddy bear," she gasped through the torrent.
"Kookobur, you always want your teddy bear!" I laughed. "I do, too."
"Shall we go down and get them?"
"Yeah." We both were savoring this too much to shatter the delicate web we had spun between us. "Ohh...! Today's a rolakuka day." The very name of our family confection tasted sweet in the air.
"Today's a divinity and vinaterta day!" I countered, topping decadence with decadence.
"Today's a..." She stopped.
"'Today's a' what?" I smiled at her, carried away with the metaphoric thoughts between us.
"Today's a huckleberry muffin."
I looked at my plate. "No, that's no good. Choose something else."
"Ok, hmm..." A sunbeam struck our prism in the window, sending fairy rainbows skipping to her eyes. "Today is a story, a poem."
"Today's a ballet!"
Breathlessly, we embraced each other's flushed faces with our eyes. A thousand unspoken words flowed between us in that moment, and she was five, and I was three, and all was right with the world, with us, again. I saw her as a kindergarten Princess Tigerlily and a blushing bride and a mother with long, red hair all at once. In that moment she was Athena, Gaea, everything; nothing else mattered, nothing existed save her. She was herself, and I was she. She was at college, and gone, and always with me.
And then the phone rang, and I was alone.
"What?" Another phone ring.
"Get the phone, eh?"
"No, you." On the next ring, she reached for the phone. "Downstairs." She shrugged, and went to the stair. When she was half way down, I whispered into her empty chair. "Please."
A few minutes later, I heard the phone slip into its cradle. I waited for my sister's step on the stair. My watch ticked away, and still she hadn't come back upstairs. With a sigh, I took a gulp of milk, but it tasted sour. Trying to rid my mouth of the milk, I lifted my muffin. It crumbled tastelessly on my lips, a faded, phantom rainbow from the prism illumination the crumbs falling to the plate. The dull, dying sunlight came through the window, the bleak blue sky spread over our home, and I was alone. Holding back inexplicable tears, I plodded down to my room, laid down on my bed, and fell into an empty sleep.
Once upon a time, the world was a barren, dry place. No plants grew, and the only animals that roamed the wasteland were dustbunnies and fragmented wraiths. The soil was bitter, and the world was hard and rude. The sun shone down, and the blue sky and brown earth were the sole colors of the world. But then, once upon a time, the clouds rolled in, deep and black and beautiful. And a hard, fast fall of rain quenched the parched earth, leaving it thirsty for more.
(by Wendy A. F. Green, (c) 1987)
She knows I am here. I know she knows, because the moment I walked in the room, she took off the black biker jacket, revealing her white-white back and her white-white shoulders peeking out of her black-black leotard. She pushed back her hair, the way she does when she is teasing me, and then she turned. Away from me.
My coat will stay on. I want nothing to keep me at this party if I choose to take flight. Everything in me is wound tightly for instant release. She will not know she is affecting me. She cannot know.
I have to prove that I am alive and better off without her. If I leave this kitchen, I can lose myself on the dance floor, pushing and contorting with the musical throng and the girls who are bleary-eyed with cheap beer. And she will feel so badly. I don't need her.
But she is laughing. Tossing her hair. And Mike is leaning over her, kissing her shoulders, nibbling on her collar bone. She turns her head, and fastens her clear, focused eyes on my hands. I stop playing with my ring and look down. One more check to make sure I have regained control of my hands. When I look up, Mike is losing himself in her silky neck, and she is smiling softly. At me. Then, she laughs, and attacks Mike's ear.
I am pinned to the wall. Immobile. All I can do is feel the cold refrigerator and feel the throng brushing past to the keg and watch as Mike rubs closer and closer against her. She lifts her hand towards me, and I want to go grab it and pull her back to me and leave here with her as I've done so often before.
But her hand meets Bill's, and he joins Mike in a senseless frenzy of hormones and saliva, sitting by the sink. Eight feet away.
Somehow, I find myself walking to the bathroom. Every part of me moves as it is supposed to. I shut the door on the kitchen and on the throng and on her. Standing in front of the medicine chest, I take out the razor. Three gashes on my biceps. The blood is warm and salty and just like the blood I took from her three months ago. Her first. She thought I didn't understand.
In the kitchen, she thinks self-righteously of the pain she suffered on my account. As Mike and Bill bruise her tender whiteness with their overeager lips, I stare, my dark coat sleeve wet and dank.
My pain is real.
(by Wendy A. F. Green, (c) 1992)
13 June 1994
Watching The Abyss. Thinking of you.
Would you hold me as I die, Nick? Would you try and bring me back? Curled up on a sheetless bed, I think back to that McDowell night when those questions first seemed important, when there was a sense of playful romanticism to them, no tragedy save separation, so quickly forgotten. Flesh on flesh, the three months preceding seemed nothing.
But the waters are icy and the course uncharted. And would you stubbornly pound my corpse when people said all life, all hope was gone, when they cried and mourned and asked you to stop, when they said your life was elsewhere...would you go on? Or peacefully let me alone and calm, pale and martyred. I remember the whiskey sour we had that night, the bed we didn't molest, the feel of my back on your stomach, your thigh over my waist.
"You've never given up on anything in your life, now fight damn it! Fight!" Would you slap my face, shout at me, force me back to the living through your sheer force of will acting on mine? Would the hordes cry tears of relief, holding whatever part of you or me they could find, welcoming the reaffirmation of life? Or does it end, and the affirmation of what remains --though subdued-- carries you on?
And when the mask goes on, when your air becomes liquid, when your world is warped by the pressure and the atmosphere, do I look like one you love? Do you accept the gel calmly, do you fight it and gasp and beg for the known? Who rubs our hands as we emerge from the foreign waters that surrounded us before birth? Does survival bring us together, or is survival a badge worn alone, touched lightly and winced over only in the darkest of solitary rooms, in the deepest night?
When the water fills your lungs, what would you type, what message carries you through the unknown and scary? "We all breathe liquid for nine months, Bud; your body will remember." Then the plunge, the pressures unheard of, the places no one else will ever understand. Who will understand where you've gone, what mysterious black things are underneath? What do you think as the world disappears and it is you and a light and complete unfamiliarity? Descending.
Do you go farther than safe? When you know you can't go back, what do you risk? "No, Lindsay, TALK with him."
"It's not easy being a cast iron bitch, it takes years of training." When the light breaks, does my voice come to you? Does anything make sense? "You have to listen to my voice, you have to concentrate, try." Do you fall? "I know how alone you feel...oh, Bud, you're not alone. I'm with you, I'll always be with you Bud, I promise that." What consolation..."You need to talk to me Bud, please, I need to know you're okay." You defuse the bombs left by others, you risk what you needn't, you suffer what isn't yours. Wrapped in a protective suit, hands swathed beyond recognition, you touch and manipulate delicately, ham handed, but perfect. Getting the job done. When you know there's no way back, what is the last message you type?
And the look in your eye, sitting on the pseudo-stage, the horror and disbelief and worry. The hands that slice the honeydew. The final falling asleep clothed. The phone calls. The phone fights. The letters. The pictures. The plans. The questions. The miscommunication, missteps, and mistrust. The tenderness, the honesty, the love.
Watching The Abyss. And thinking of you.
(by Wendy A. F. Green, (c) 1994. Quotes are from the movie "The Abyss." If you've seen the movie, then you know. Otherwise, go rent it. Now.)
We are in Edinburgh. It is raining softly. The lady at the corner cafe brings us tea in mismatched china. A wilted carnation (pink) sits in a mineral water bottle vase. We think of scones.
Currant cream scones and apricots. That's what the plump, calico-skirted lady brings us, on a little oval platter. She glances down at our untouched teacups. "Ay. I ha' forgotten, lassies. Lemon or milk?" she asks us. Milk. And then comes our milk, and a bowl of sugar lumps. And we stir it all up and bit into our apricots. Of course a bit of juice dribbles down my chin. But that's allright. There's no one else near us. Just a pair of old ladies and a middle-aged couple on the other side of the tea room.
The old emptinesses from the spring well up. We remember things and people and places lost as we stir the sugar in our tea. And we smile, remembering the things and people and places we've gained. The middle-aged man pats his wife on her hand, looking at her with a schoolboy's love. The old ladies chat quietly about the same things they've chatted about since they were young. And the tea is a never ending stream to our cups and our souls.
It is a good day.
And the rain pitter-patters against the window by our heads, the street is so quiet we can hear how the rain trickles inside of the curbs, between the pewter-colored cobblestones, back into the recesses of our minds and hearts. Beneath the water and the cobblestones, between the drops of rain, are the words we whispered and giggled as children -- As barefooted children, twirling in the last few drops of summer's afternoon storms, standing mesmerized as we watched our feet be washed over by the rivers that formed at the sides of our streets or watched oil in the puddles as it swirled into taffeta-patterned rainbows.
The couple rises, his arm on her shoulders, her arm 'round his waist, and walks slowly out in the gentle rain. She turns up his collar and laughs. The parade of passersby breaks the quiet with a steady click-shake of umbrellas opening up private spaces. The couple is lost in the black-capped fog of umbrellas and rain.
Our calico-hostess brings cheese and grapes, with a sniff that says she knows we are going to be here a long while, sipping, remembering, watching life go on.
(by Wendy A. F. Green and Lori Kurtyka, (c) 1997)
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