I remembered her birthday as I drove, demanding the fog lift and starlight direct me. rummaging behind me in the thick fog of my disease and curious as always, how do I forget things like this, when so many pieces of information can at any moment, be found – so much debris – in the wasteland of my mind.
I find the history of Egypt tucked neatly beneath ann boylen’s execution and wander with tom sawyer, but my sister’s birthday card is lost, and I tug again at the scarf around my kneck, made nervous again by the faint imagery floating in my mind. Outside the night is opalescent. One of those Chicago Octobers, all rain heavy and thick with the damp that does not eviscerate. I picture her, child born of impossible sun, and feel somehow warmed that the weather at least, is of my temperament. Driving and pounding, the thunder rolling across sky lights, like zeus is waiting for me, and I hear my own father questioning again, the digital display tapping fingernails on my brain and I am claustrophobic as the light turns red. I shrug off my coat, turn down the heat, release the windows to let in the rain and wonder again, scanning the back seat, the street signs. What is available, what can I use – to give her? what gift?
My little sister, this child woman with piercing eyes and darting tongue who seems to me at once my best friend and worst enemy. I hear the honking and press the gas, skidding through puddles and raindrops, feeling the tightening in my skin, the world creating darkness of darkness and somehow knowing, she will know – of course – I have forgotten.
The bad sister, to never remember.
Hers and my aunts
And every year, the same celebration, and empty handed I am removed from it, rebellious and pretending disillusionment I withdraw, hiding with my books in the corner, reciting the names of ancient places, times, dates no one else would know.
I call the names of silent gods and withdraw as the car splashes sidewalks, wait a beat through lights and move to the silvery sirens, police and then I am moving again. Each minute of red glowing distraction another nail in the coffin.
I will be ebuillant. I promise myself as I move. I will be gracious and wondrous. I will be . . .
Parking I sigh,
Move in the silence and dream of excuses,
Or the plain wonder of truth – I forgot. I mouth the words around the lie evoked on contact “it’s on the kitchen table” she smiles and nods, my mother handing me her card to sign,
And soaking, I sit in the armchair, counting in greek the names of the books they keep on the shelf,
The numbers of clocks
The time on the walls
I count and I wait
Until I can go home.
And once again I am the lie I have told myself.