It was the crispness of the sweater that made me stop. Folded firmly, it was starched with the wind and the sun of the country it was dried in. Australia. I pushed it up to my face and breathed in deeply. Just the stale scent of the plane remained, not the detergent she used to wash it. But it was enough, it was enough. I placed it over my face and let my head drop back as the memories of the trip washed up through my senses.
Inhale. Long flights and airport reunions. Exhale. Her bedroom in that little apartment, his dirty dungarees and white ponytail past the door. The curtain-sifted light in her room and the darkness sitting, brooding in the corners. Inhale. The wind, the constant wind around the house, through the windows, playing tag with the screen door. Exhale. Arguments. Speed-walking through pale, yellow brick streets under a muggy grey sky. And quiet conversations in the dusk; thoughts waiting on pillows.
You were beside me when I woke.
Your eyes reflecting the dark
except that you moved.
I was frozen hot, dripping
with fear, your dry brush legs
tightened like a fist
at my breaths, your body tenses –
Outside the curtains the Moon
is busy, watching
something rattle through the trash.
When you leave, (finally, you leave)
you move like liquid poured
down a dry wall.
All eight legs and eyes
releasing me as you dribble down
into the black,
invisible except that you moved.
There were times before, and after, but I barely remember the ones in between. There weren’t enough of them.
There was the time we walked home from the store and saw a striped grey kitten in an abandoned lot. It followed us home and my mother didn’t want to keep it. But I kept it anyways. It ate smelly food and I named it Skittles. I never asked how she felt when I insisted on taking it for a walk to the line of stores we called downtown. That was before, when my mother still had her adventures.
When I wake up in the morning, I can’t see the roof of my apartment. I close my eyes again. Immediately, I remember what I forgot to finish yesterday. I rub my eyes open, they’re sore and puffy, but the roof seems to be obscured still. It’s covered in something, something green in the grey light, but I need my glasses before I can figure out what it is. I bury my face into the warm pillow but it’s too late: I’m already awake and I know there won’t be anymore sleep until after midnight.
There are things down there that you would never expect. There are things down there that you would never believe existed. Long-forgotten treasures, diamonds and gems, covered with a thick layer of grime and something else. Memory. A shipful of greasy shapes and fluid memories lounge comfortably on the bottom of some far away place.