“Then Helen, daughter of Zeus, took other counsel. Straightway she cast into the wine of which they were drinking a drug to quiet all pain and strife, and bring forgetfulness of every ill. Whoso should drink this down, when it is mingled in the bowl, would not in the course of that day let a tear fall down over his cheeks…”
another life, another time, could there be?, where you run hallways laughing, where tiny sandy toes escape from an ocean rushing up the beach with its big, angry, frothing lips, where your mother and i drink wine from plastic cups after you’ve finally fallen asleep, where pictures of your smile and your eyes and your face frozen in a laugh forever fill grandparents’ walls, where your cold nose nestles into my neck, where you whisper i love you daddy, where there are no secrets, no procedures, no tears, only screams and cries as you take your first breath, as you’re passed from doctor to mother, as you’re swaddled in safety, as your mother grabs my hand and never lets go, as your first day is not your last? another life where April never has to be your name.
2. hairpins for my sister
Two hairpins she handed him, because she was unwinding, yielding to her unhinging. Take these, she said, they are for you. Two black hairpins and he buckled her seatbelt, arms briefly wrapping her body. They lingered. He drove slow to keep her sane. She gave in to her head’s want to be on his shoulder, for her hand’s want to be around his arm. Her fingers massaged muscles. Her hair violent and curled and a beautiful mess. A beautiful mess we were.
Sister? Yes? It’s okay, we don’t have to go back. But the tide is coming in fast, brother, soon we won’t be able to make our way back to the beach. Sister, we don’t have to go back. We can stay here, we can climb high into the crags and crevices of Haystack Rock, we can live with seagulls, we can learn to fly, we can watch the ocean swell and crash and churn from here, from our new home. Brother, hold my hand. Sister, if we stay here, whether we drown in silent screams under black oceans, whether we starve and wither away, whether no one catches us until the next time the tide is so far out we can try to make our escape to the end of the horizon, we won’t have to go back, Sister, to any of it, to you running away, to letters torn then glued together for clues, to mom’s black eyes and broken coffee tables, to silent dads and screaming heads, we won’t have to move away and never want to go back. If we stay here I won’t know the love of a father before ever being one, I won’t lose my way and find it and lose it again, and you won’t marry and have kids and grow old and look back and wonder how we ever made it, how any of us ever loved or laughed or lived. Brother, the water is rising. Sister, listen, if we don’t go back, if we stay right here, if we hold our breath and close our eyes and lift our hands to the rain we will never have to remember to forget. Hold my hand, brother, we are going to run for it, I will hold you up when the water gets chin high. But sister, it is already head high. Brother, be careful, we can’t see under the waves but rocks and starfish and mussels and shells that slice and cut feet hide beneath the surface and if you fall, brother, I will try my best to save you. Sister, if we stay, we can never have to forget.
Morning light would come too bright and too harsh for her and her unpinned hair. Plans made for future curtains for windows above his bed, plans made for left side and right side, plans made for darkness and light, plans made for how to operate the thing starting to form as an us between them, all would become too bright and too harsh, and inside a day that time collapsed against, their us would be there and gone and he’d be left with two black hairpins he’d forget to remember to forget. So place them back in her palm. Give them back and don’t touch hands. There will be no more memories.
Slender shoulders rolled towards him, post-everything. Dark red blanket bunched loose around her silk, her slim, her hip-boned waist, chest and everything exposed, post the brief reunion of a him and a her. She said, You’re old, like really old. She smiled and asked, You ever slept with a white girl?, and he said, No, and they laughed, and she kissed him and said I bet you fall in love with one, and he kissed her and said I doubt it, and he left in the morning post-everything. Post her midnight text. Post their stripping of clothes. Post fake intimacy. Post mechanic proof of life. Post the night spent eyes open thinking about not thinking about someone else.