Fragments

Here is a memory.

I remember my mother climbing out of her car, cooing over me and taking care not to jostle me or lose her grip. She was halted in the middle of the driveway by my father, who wanted his chance to see me, as he’d only gotten glimpses prior to the drive. I remember them smiling in pure wonderment.

He left the house as soon as I was brought inside, making an excuse to fetch some groceries. I remember my mother sitting down at the couch and playing with me, mumbling to herself about the nature of husbands. The glow of the TV caught my attention- a new toy.

I remember lights flashing, bathing my face, and I remember the low moan my mother had emitted. She sank her face into my head, giving me the first taste of saltwater. My eyes did not fill or even blink. They remained on the screen. I remember his brown eyes staring back at me, a dead, lightless portrait. Unsettled by my mother, I began weeping too.

I always said I wasn’t going to do it.

There was a girl I once knew. We met on Facebook, knocking heads in the form of comments. Our tastes were similar. If she posted about one photo, I was right behind her. We agreed on our favorite band, our favorite song, our favorite album, and everything else having to do with them. We even sent the same friend request. She helped my friend’s list grow less skimpy, and we had meaningful conversations through chat.

She talked a lot about death. It was worrying. I tried to get her to stop. She wouldn’t listen. She masked her words in funny emoticons so I would be deceived. She believed there was no purpose for her in life. Everything sided against her, pushing her tumultuously over the brink.

Her account was terminated. I never spoke to her again. No one knew of her existence in my family. They didn’t question my black clothing.

I always thought I was above the influence, but times have changed.

COMMUNICATION

“Mom?”

“Yes, honey?”

“I don’t feel like myself.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t feel like I’m real.”

“You are real. You are here speaking to me. What could be more proof than that?”

Heartbeat.

“Mom, what’s it called when someone pretends to be someone they’re not?”

“Impersonation- why?”

“Just wondering.”

Upstairs, the warmth of the blankets surrounds me. I lay my head on the pillow and brush my hair with my fingers. From across the room, his eyes stare at me- eyes that should have never closed; eyes that the light should have stayed in.

My name reflects when I was born. It was a mundane start to a life, but it served me well. Last year my birthday fell on a Monday, the last time history will repeat for another seven years. People at school used to tease me about it, but they’ve outgrown that now.

COMMUNICATION

“Monday, come down for dinner!”

“Okay…”

My brother arrives from the city, clad in a leather jacket. I can smell his old-fashioned cologne when I hug him. “Hey!”

We all sit down and say grace. I keep my eyes open when everyone else is praying. They never notice it, never even suspect. The food tastes better than usual- Mom is having a good day. My father knows better than to ruin it, but he can’t help himself.

COMMUNICATION

“How was the marathon?”

“Oh, just fine.”

Heartbeat.

“It would have been better if you’d come.”

“Honey, I told you, I’m stuck behind a desk all day. You know that. I can’t watch you win every race.”

“As a matter of fact, I didn’t win. It’s not a contest, Joe. I run marathons for fun.”

“You’ve proved before in the past that you can have plenty of fun without me.”

My parents fight about everything under the sun, from whose turn it is to pick me up from school to what each of them should be doing in their spare time. It wasn’t always this way.

Heartbeat. My brother reaches into his pocket and I push my peas to the side of my plate.

“Monday, I’ve brought you a present from the city.”

Dust motes cloud our words. My ears prick up.


QUESTION:

“What is it this time?”


ANSWER:

“Tickets!”

A+

He shows me the gift. Two tickets lie silently in his palm. A chill falls over the table. Eagerly, I grab for them.

“You didn’t even tell me you entered the contest!”

My parents exchange glances, but not with mutual feeling.

“That’s because I wanted it to be a surprise if I won.”

My mom pushes her chair away from the table.

Here is a memory.

I remember the first time I ever heard my favorite band play. It was on the radio, and I grooved in my car seat. My mother choked out a laugh.

“Do you like this song? Do you like it?” she’d asked. I remember nodding my head fast, to the beat of the music.

When we got home she’d pulled out a plastic box full of CDs, and I listened to each album all the way through. We danced in the living room together.

I remember that halfway through the last album, my father came home. He wasn’t happy. He made my mother turn the music off. I remember going to bed with the sound still ringing in my ears. It was familiar, like an old friend.

COMMUNICATION

“You’re going out of town to see them?”

Half a beat-

“I didn’t know that band was still around.”

Heartbeat and swallow.

“Guess you aren’t aware of Monday’s obsession, huh, Mom?”

“I was, but…”

My mother’s eyes are ovular. The lids slip halfway to cover them.

“Don’t you have school on that day?”

I answer in the midst of my attempts at hiding the peas in my napkin. “I could skip for a good cause.”

She doesn’t seem convinced.

My father voices no opinion but “Get those peas back on your plate where they belong.”

I obey his orders to a point and leave half the batch hidden.

COMMUNICATION

“Dad?”

“What do you want?”

“I wanted to tell you goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

My hair joins the blackness of the night, streaked with moonlight. It’s the beautiful obsidian of the man on my wall, but I’ve got my mother’s eyes. The sound wafts up from the floorboards- my parents are arguing again. The moonlight from my open window illuminates the ticket on my bedside.

QUESTION:

“Will you let me take Monday to the concert?”

ANSWER:

“As long as you can prove you’re responsible.”

B-

BREAKING NEWS- ROCK STAR MALCOLM WILES HAS DIED

Malcolm Wiles, 38, was found dead in his hotel room Monday afternoon.

Wiles was known for fronting the American band Echofire. Undoubtedly one of the world’s biggest acts in music, Echofire has recorded with several top name artists and sold over ten thousand records worldwide.

Wiles’s body was discovered by bandmate Kenneth Lue at 4:30 PM, after Lue had become concerned that Wiles had missed soundcheck for their penultimate concert at Madison Square Garden, the last of three consecutive dates on their “Love Is a Gun” tour. Police report that Wiles was lying in the bathtub in a pool of water and blood, his wrists slit open. The cause of death is undoubtedly suicide. No foul play is suspected.

The last people to see Wiles alive were Joe Godfrey and his wife Alicia, two longtime fans of Echofire who ran into Wiles on their way home from his last concert. Alicia declined from being interviewed, but Joe reports, “He didn’t seem suicidal to me. Just kind of oblivious, you know?” He adds, “It was such a great night, and meeting Malcolm just put the icing on the cake. His death will affect millions of fans all over the world. He was a great singer.”

The members of Echofire have put out a statement regarding Wiles’s death, telling their fans that the last concert has been cancelled and to respect their privacy in this time of grief.

COMMUNICATION

“You did very well reading today in class, Monday.”

“Oh, thank you.”

“Have you ever considered joining forensics? I think it would be just the place for you.”

Half a beat- “Yeah, once. But I never knew what it was about.”

“The club is aimed at students who want to improve their public speaking. I know you’re working around a shyness…”

“I don’t like reading aloud because I can never get the tone right.”

“Well, you certainly did a good job on the tone in that poem.”

“Oh…” Heartbeat.

“I have to go now. Goodbye!”

“Goodbye, Monday.”

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless clime and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes…

Rain, rain, rain- it pounds down on the windows outside, washing them clean, while the computer screen blinds me. I read Lord Byron’s work aloud once again, all alone. This is the third time a teacher has told me to join forensics- they must be onto something. I have a way with English teachers.

Thoughts float past my head, hooking onto the poster on my wall. I reluctantly tear my eyes from the screen. His eyes stare back at me- beautiful brown eyes, partly obscured by strands of coal-black hair that fall around his face. I watch the photograph so closely that my own hair eventually steps in to block the view, unlatching itself from behind my ears.

When I found out that he was dead, a strange heaviness filled me. This man’s voice had been in my ears for years, since I was only a small child. How could he have done this to me? What would have brought on such a brutal end?


I have a strong quota against suicide. It will never happen to me, and I will never allow it to happen to anyone I love again.

I began life on the day he finished it. Some might call it irony, but I call it tragedy. He was waiting for something, and it never came.

COMMUNICATION

“Mom?”

“Yes?”

“Do you want to take me to the concert?”

Heartbeat- in which the ebony silk of night out the window reflects the tears in her eyes.

“Maybe next time.”

“Will there be a next time?”

Several strong heartbeats. Her voice comes out broken.

“I don’t know.”

Heartbeat.

“Have you ever-“

“Yes?”

“Nothing.”

Here is a memory.

I remember the smooth feel of her cheek beneath my hand. Her lips parted, stirring my soft hair. I remember the way she kissed me, the feel of her spine in my fingers. I murmured sweet nothings to her, singing softly.

I remember the morning- “There’s something I have to tell you.”

“There’s something I have to tell you.”

We’d both burst into tears.

“Do you have any idea what’s happened?”

“Yes. Oh God, yes.”

I remember sending her on her way, feeling like my heart was being torn out.

I awaken in the night with a start, for the memory is not mine.

QUESTION:
“Do you have any idea what’s happened?”

ANSWER:
“Yes. Oh God, yes.”

A

The morning lives to serve. My brother and I banter whilst making breakfast. Everything slips into place when he’s around.

COMMUNICATION

“You’ve gotta get that hair of yours cleaned up. We can’t have Kenneth seeing you like this!”

“Oh come on!” Heartbeat, in which a swat is aimed.

“I seriously doubt Kenneth will notice me at all.”

“You’ll be surprised!” A couple of heartbeats, in which her hair is ruffled.

“If we run fast enough-“

“Could you please stop doing that?”

“Okay, okay! Sorry Monday, let me get a brush.”

Heartbeat. Blink.

“Look at you, mixing the batter all by yourself.”

“It’ll come out ruined if you keep distracting me.”

Several heartbeats full of laughter.

Here is a memory.

I remember the first time I disobeyed my parents. My brother needed someone to help out with a school’s fundraiser at Panera and drafted me. It was Sunday, six days from me. I remember my father telling me I couldn’t go on account of church. We’d argued.

“Why does Drew get to skip and I can’t?”

“Because your brother is a responsible adult. He knows how to behave. You on the other hand… well, you need all the sermons you can get.” I remember the way his eyes had stayed open as he laughed, glinting with a malicious gleam. It was gone in a second.

My brother had agreed to meet me in the back way. I remember the crunch of the leaves under my feet as I ran to his car, exhilaration filling me up. We spent the whole day at Panera and raised a lot of money for the school’s cause. I remember feeling prouder than I ever had at any church fundraisers.

My father had found out and yelled at my brother for taking me away and scaring him half to death. He then yelled at me for going along with it. I remember my mother trying to interfere, hovering around the edges of the argument like a frightened puppy. I remember sneaking off when the anger wasn’t directed at my brother and me anymore.

Footsteps pound on the hardwood stairs. I look up from flipping pancakes.

COMMUNICATION

“Why, you’re up already!”

“Yes, indeed we are! How do you do?”

Heartbeat in which the feet drift over to the counter.

“Monday, do you need any help with that?”

“No thank you.”

Heartbeat.

“All right, honey.”

My father comes downstairs too, interrupting our quiet. I am done with my first round of pancakes.

QUESTION:

“What’s to eat?”

ANSWER:

“Pancakes that I made.”

B

Sitting down at the table, my father raises his eyebrows at me. I concentrate on stirring my syrup around.

“You made this all by yourself?”

“Yeah.”

My mother glances towards the clock, ticking out the seconds slowly.

COMMUNICATION

“Well, you’ll be late for work if you don’t get going now.”

“Who are you to tell me when I should go?”

Heartbeat.

“Eat up, honey. Your breakfast will be cold.”

“You’re just trying to get me out of here, aren’t you?”

Like before, my brother and I sneak away, and no one seems to notice our absence. We gain freedom in the crisp, chilly air.

THE RADIO SPEAKS

“That was Echofire with “The Girl I Knew,” brought to you by 104.5- The Wolf. Echofire is playing tonight in our fair town of Baltimore, and there’s still a chance to win tickets if you haven’t gotten them already. Call in and answer our trivia questions and see how much you know about the band- you could get two tickets free to Echofire, playing at M&T Bank Stadium tonight…”

COMMUNICATION

“This guy’s repetitive, huh, Monday?”

“I know… listen to him go!”

THE RADIO SPEAKS

“It’s an all day, all night Echofire marathon on account of the concert… what’s interesting about “The Girl I Knew” is that it was the last song recorded by the band with Malcolm Wiles on lead vocals. Some say that the lyrics point to his untimely end, but who knows what goes on in the mind of rock star? We’ll get back to you with…”

I lean on my elbows and peer out the sunny window. Light hits me straight in the face, and I squint into its brightness. The car fills with more heat than would be necessary for winter. I rest my head and dream of the man with brown eyes.

How sad it is that I am the only teenage girl I know who likes my favorite band or has even heard of them. After their singer took his life, the band became a nostalgia act. Until the day I met that girl on Facebook, I never knew that there were more people like me. And now even she is gone, following in the man’s footsteps. I would do anything for the man if he was still alive- but not that.

As my eyes close, new ideas tumble through my brain, edging their way towards a dream life. My soul vibrates with a strong timbre, singing on its own accord.

Here is a memory.

I remember her eyes, her hands, her hips- everything that belonged to me. Her face was in my mind as I lay down with woman after woman, trying to cleanse myself. I remember the stares of my friends that hinted they were onto me. Rational thought took over- I knew there was no way they could have found out. But I remember accusing words shouted over brunch.

“Forget about her, man! She was a one-time deal- it can NEVER happen again.”

I remember the way he had glared, ashamed at my actions.

“Why don’t you understand that you can’t just lay hands on every chick you see?”

I remember apologizing. He had pushed me away, stone-cold eyes hardening. He was angry at me often, I remember, but never like that day.

“Whatever happened in that bed needs to stay in that bed.” He lifted his chin. I remember knowing that he was not going let me live this down.

“I promise I’ll leave her alone…”

“You better! You betrayed Joe’s trust in us- you betrayed our trust in you!” I remember that he wasn’t joking around. There was too little time for that.

A wave of emotions jolts me from my sleep. It escapes in the form of mystifying tears, stopping me in my tracks. My brother looks over from the wheel.

QUESTION:

“Are you okay?”


ANSWER:

“Yeah… perfectly fine.”

C-

Despite arriving late in line, we still manage to get a great spot inside the stadium. Human bodies bump against me, brushing my jeans. I unscrew my water bottle and feel the cool liquid slide down my throat, making me quiver.

COMMUNICATION

“Excuse me, but you’re in my spot.”

“No, I’m not. I was here all along.”

“Look, girl, I don’t want to fight with you. But that was my spot. I left to go to the Porta Potty-“

“No. You didn’t. I’ve been here all the time.”

Heartbeat.

“I swear that’s-“

“I swear you’re confused, sir. Just take your spot where you are now. The view won’t be diminished any.”

Several heartbeats.

“You handled that well, sis. I’m proud of you.”

“Don’t get too proud.”

I flip the fussy man off behind his back.

“Nope, still proud.”

“Thank you.”

The sun disappears behind clouds, and I begin to shiver once more. My brother slips his arm around me. Prisms of light dance through the white blankets in the sky, and I daydream again.

Here is a memory.

I remember standing onstage, pouring my heart out to the front row. It was just yesterday that my wife made our divorce final. I remember reading about myself and the speculation on what the cause was. No one knew what I remember- the crinkles between her forehead as she told me that this was goodbye, for the last time. “I can’t stay with someone who’s unfaithful to me.”

I remember a few moments before, when my friend had arrived with his own wife. I remember her green eyes above all, their intense look. She had stared at me while her husband laughed and chatted and asked me how the Missus was. I remember he hadn’t believed that I was divorced. He always saw things through rose-colored glasses.

Performing, I had given the audience my all. I remember my friend’s wife sitting out with them- once a fan, always a fan. I had sung my deepest love song, once written for my wife, to her. I remember the emotion that had filled me, tying her to me in mysterious ways.

We got what we wanted that night. My friend was paid handsomely as we hit ourselves up. I don’t remember much after that. Through the haze of the drugs, no one noticed when I slipped off. I do remember watching my friend’s wife follow me out, eager to talk. It had all ended that night.

“How’re y’all doin’ tonight?!”

The opening act gets us fired up. Their singer, a sexy showwoman with bright ginger hair and a great set of lungs, twirls in her fiery dress, filled with music. Cheers sink over the stadium, and even though I’ve never heard her music before in my life, I decide she is my second favorite artist, right now.

THE RADIO SPEAKS WHEN NO ONE LISTENS

“Now at M&T Stadium, Scarlet Machina has taken the stage to warm the crowd up for Echofire..."

Finally, finally, our waiting pays off. The opening act was good, but I know nothing can replace my favorite band.

The stadium lights go down. The stage lights go up. My brother and I cheer. In a second, my favorite band has come to the front of the stage and begun their performance. While those around me rock out, I am bombarded by flashes of visions.

I remember singing in Vegas. I remember singing in LA. I remember singing in Seattle. I remember singing in Sydney. I remember singing in Tokyo. I remember singing in London.

“Hello, Baltimore!”

I remember his guitar. I remember my voice. I remember our words, written down in secret, revised a thousand times until they were right.

“Let’s get pumped! Are you pumped?”

I remember beckoning; I remember her coming along. For several nights I remember our bodies all tangled up beneath sheets. Then we stopped seeing each other. I remember my guilt.

“YEAH!”

I sway, but not along to the music. It’s hard to tell where I am anymore. My vision has been split in half. One part of me is looking down at myself from the stage, while the other part is staring up at the band from down below. Their current singer shifts, transforming through years into the brown eyed man on my wall.

I remember standing at center stage and giving a shout-out.

“To Patricia Godfrey- the girl I knew!”

I remember my friends staring incredulously. The song was shut down early due to a malfunction with the guitar amp.

In the midst of the music, my brother gives me a strange look.

COMMUNICATION

“What are you singing?”

“…uh…”

Shine like a lantern
Burn it in the dark
Give me that light
Don’t let us fall apart

I remember the endless revisions we had done on that one. My friend had felt hostile- “What the hell do these lyrics mean?” I tried to defend myself by calling it a work in progress. He had retaliated by telling me to tone it down.

That girl I once knew
She said that she was mine
It fell apart
Honey, you’ve lost your shine

I remember preferring my lyrics. His “toning it down” made it more explicit, less poetic. But I remember having to agree. We were arguing left and right, and my submission meant less conflict.

Slowly, I resurface from the tidal wave that’s pulled me under, in time to watch the band leave.

“Take care, and have a great night!”

COMMUNICATION

“Hey, bro?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you believe in life after death?”

“Depends on what you mean.”

Heartbeat.

“Do you think a person’s soul can live on through someone else- even after their body died?”

“Reincarnation? Sure, I guess it could happen. No one’s reported back from the great beyond yet- it’s all one huge puzzle.”

Half a beat- slowing in tempo. “Thanks, Drew, I needed to hear that…”

QUESTION:

“Why, what’s been eating your mind?”

ANSWER:

“A lot.”

C+

Neither my mother nor my father want to know how the concert was, but I’m grateful for it, as I’m not sure myself.

COMMUNICATION

“Go to bed, honey. You have school tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

Heartbeat. Her slippers make their way across her daughter’s room.

“I remember Echofire in their heyday… Malcolm sure was a beautiful man.”

“I agree.”

“Who would have thought they’d still be selling out stadiums today? And with their guitarist on vocals…”

“They’re not half as good as they were.”

A couple of heartbeats- enough time for her to let out a strangled chuckle.

“I hope you enjoyed the concert. Good night, Monday.”

“Good night.”

My mind is a blur of sound and color. Once I’m convinced my parents have gone to bed, I sneak out of my room and head for the outdoor porch.

Stars sink over me, healing me internally. I shiver in my tank top, the frosty night air settling straight into my bones. The metal of the porch swing I sit on freezes the back of my neck, and I do not move.

Here is a memory.

I remember the first time I felt a presence other than myself when I was alone. I was only a little girl, and my parents’ arguments scared me. Tucked away in my small bed, by myself, I remember crying at their loud voices that reached my ears even through the walls. Neither of them thought to check up on me, and my brother was fast asleep.

I’d lain there in remote silence, until I perceived a minor shift in my body. From deep within me, a voice had spoken wordlessly. I remember falling asleep, calmed by what I didn’t understand.

Thoughts turn in my head. The remembrances are coming more naturally now that I’m away from the band. I rock myself with my feet and let them flow like dreams.

Here is a memory.

I remember two years ago, when I got my iPod for Christmas. Immediately following the presents, I’d raced upstairs to download all my favorite band’s albums onto my computer. I remember my mother looking upset when I reappeared, headphones on.

There had always been that second layer- a layer of words I heard and words I understood. In the case of the band’s last album, the layers were more perceptible, more potent. I remember feeling like I was being told one thing and hearing the exact opposite- “White is black. Life is death.”

All my life I’d thought the songs were so familiar because I’d been hearing them for so long. But I remember on that day, the songs felt familiar because I had made them happen.

I never understood until now what it meant.

THE RADIO SPEAKS

“It’s a beautiful winter’s day here in Bowie, almost time to get ready for the holidays- have you done your shopping yet? The band Echofire played in Baltimore yesterday, as a part of their “Around the World with 80 Dates” tour- I have to say, I envy all of you who went to see them, I’ve heard they put on a great live show. In honor of the holidays and the concert, here’s Echofire’s rendition of ‘Carol of the Bells,’ on Mix 91.1- enjoy.”

COMMUNICATION

“You wish you had been there, don’t you?”

“Please, Joe- please stop.”

“Stop? Stop what? I’m only asking you.”

“I don’t want to hear any of your questions!”

“Why?” Heartbeat- in which a step forward is taken.

“What do you find so wrong with me? Why does everything I say have to turn into an argument?”

“Please keep your voice down…”

“I’m only asking, Alicia!” Heartbeat. He leans into her face, close enough for a kiss.

Heartbeat.

“I have some work to do.”

“What work? You don’t do anything around here! All that matters to you are your marathons, your training and all. You’re always running, running, running, and where do you go? Right back where you started! You can’t depend on me to keep this family provided!”

“If things had gone my way, it wouldn’t be you I’m depending on now.” Cold anger.

Heartbeat.

“Yeah, cause your dream of marrying a rock star didn’t work out so well.” Hissing.

Several heartbeats. The crack of skin on skin resounds across the room.

Heartbeat.

“How dare you…”

“Get. Out. Of. My. House.”

“You get out of mine.”

Malcolm Jude Wiles (18 March 1958- 17 November 1996) was an American musician. He was the lead singer and primary songwriter of the rock group Echofire, from 1983 to his death in 1996. He is remembered for being one of the most famous male singers of the 90’s and for his scandalous love affairs with prominent actresses, models and singers, which were much reported on in the media. After separating from his wife in 1994, Wiles went on to write what was to be his last album with Echofire, Love Is A Gun. Wiles killed himself in a hotel room in New York City, the day that Echofire was set to perform their last concert at Madison Square Garden. The band regrouped in 2000 with guitarist Kenneth Lue on lead vocals. Wiles never had children, and was survived by his sister Nathalie.

On the day after the concert, my parents have a fight so violent that I am thrown from the house as soon as I enter it, barreled out by my mother’s flight. She grabs me and pulls me into the car. I don’t question as my mother speeds out of the driveway, skidding across the wet road. For a second I catch my father’s murderous eyes in the doorway.

We check into a hotel, and my mother calls my brother to tell him where we are. I bury myself in a Wikipedia article, trying to disappear in the corner. My mother falls on the bed and sobs, crimped chestnut hair falling into her face. Wikipedia normally has the answers to my questions, but not today.

COMMUNICATION

“Hey, anyone at home?”

“Oh God- Andrew, I’m so glad to see you…”

“Hey, calm down, Mom. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Yes- yes, please. We need clothes, food- God, I forgot to pack…”

“Don’t worry, Mom. Everything’ll be alright. I’ll go make a run for supplies.”

“Thank you so much, Andrew…”

“It’s okay.” Half a beat, in which he pulls on his coat.

“I might take a while. You pulled me out of work to come over here- it’ll be hard explaining that to my boss.”

“Just get going honey. Please.”

“Alright. Love you, Mom. Bye, Monday.”

Scandalous love affairs…

Midnight falls. I shut down my computer and turn my back on it.

COMMUNICATION

“Mom?”

“Yes?”

“Have you ever cheated on Dad?”

“Yes, I did once, before you were born.”

Heartbeat.

“Mom?”

“What now?”

“Is Dad my real dad?”

Heartbeat- slowing down now.

“No, he isn’t.”

Several strong, slow thuds of heartbeats.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You never questioned it.”

I sit down at the edge of the bed and my mother brushes my hair back from my eyes.

“You know, your eyes always looked more hazel than green to me. It’s not just the hair you inherited.”

I say nothing, leaning against my phantom mother. The rain begins again, pelting our window, and my shared body trembles beneath her fingertips. I lean up and kiss my mother on her lips.

The preening stops.

QUESTION:

“What did you just do?”


ANSWER:

“I- I don’t know, Mom…”

B-

Here is a memory.

I remember the screaming backstage, our final argument. My friend was livid. “Shut the f*** up, Malcolm! Just shut the F*** up. You ruined our concert because of some beautiful woman.”

“She’s not any beautiful woman!” I remember shouting back. “She’s mine!”

“She is NOT yours, so you should stop behaving as if she is! Do you have any idea what the press would do to us if this story got out? It’s no one of your normal affairs- oh, that they would eat for breakfast and forget by dinnertime! But we can’t have anyone finding out that Joe’s been toting illegal substances to us all these years!”

“I know damn well what the consequences are!” I had screamed. “Get the f*** off my case!”

I remember the way his eyes had iced over, voice turned scathing. “Maybe it’s you who should get the f*** out of this band.”

I remember storming out of the venue, shoving off the bodyguards that flocked around me. I was tired of having to deal with so-called security. All they did was get in my way. I remember hiding myself in the black night, keeping my head low and fixed to the sidewalk as I strolled along at a quick pace. My whole life was spiraling out of control, all for the sake of the one I loved.

Turning down the avenue towards my hotel, I was met unexpectedly by the two people I least wanted to see- my friend the drug dealer and his green-eyed wife. I remember the joy in his voice as he informed me that his wife was having another baby. I remember the moisture in her eyes as she turned her face away from me, struck with tragedy. I couldn’t take my eyes from her swollen belly. She was heavily pregnant, with a child who did not belong to me.

“Well, see ya, Malcolm. Or should I say- Mr. Wiles?” My friend had winked. I nodded, my mind miles away.

“Take care, fans.” I couldn’t believe the steadiness of my voice. The couple walked away, and they did not look back. I remember having to avert my gaze from their indulgent kiss.

Time sped up once more, but this time I was not with it. I moved at a snail’s pace, just trying to reach the hotel. It took forever to get there. I remember standing at the window for hours, forehead pressed to the cold glass, body shaking, shaking, all over. I had tried to make sense of this and failed miserably. A hard lump stuck in my throat and would not leave.

I remember lying down in the bath, cold water soaking my clothes. I hadn’t even thought to take my shoes off. The metal of the razor pressed firmly in my hand was suddenly at my veins. I remember thinking, as the blood spilled out, that at least this way my secret would be safe.

I always said I wasn’t going to do it.

There was a man I once knew, though he didn’t know me- a man with hair as black as an oil slick and eyes like dark chocolate. We never met, but he’s been inside me for all my life, waiting for a chance to speak up. He took himself away from me, denying me the pleasure of speaking to him, and has been begging for forgiveness ever since. I loved the man with all my heart, even before I knew of his true identity. When I woke from a tumult of memories, at the foot of my mother’s bed, the moonlight cast on my brother’s sleeping face in the bed next to me and I knew what I had to do. The sound of shuffling in his bag didn’t wake them, nor did the noisy water pipes. No one saw me cut two souls from my body at once. No one even noticed I was gone.

I always thought I was above the influence. But now I see it isn’t me who has stooped low- it’s my father, and he has stepped up. We’re now learning from each other in ways I could have never imagined. I just wish my mother could learn too. I suppose I’ll just have to wait until she arrives here- and I have a feeling it won’t be a very long wait.





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