When we were kids, my sister would hold her breath as the L train passed a cemetery. It wasn’t superstition, she said, that the dead would steal her soul away. She said it was a gesture of respect.
There’s something in the air in this town. I wake up two inches shorter than I was when I went to bed. Every day, the walls are higher. The furniture growls and bares its teeth. It backs me into corners.
My lover drives past a cemetery and touches their forehead, then their lips–a gesture of respect– and my sister and I aren’t kids anymore. Tonight in another city, my sister is with a client who’ll pay her to pretend he takes her breath away.
We remember running to wedge ourselves into the back of the coat closet, racing the count and the inevitable warning. “Ready or not!” The point of hiding was always to confirm our hope of being sought. We look at pictures of ourselves as children and doubt the truth of what we see. Were we ever so small? I see an image of myself three years ago and shake my head. I was never, I was never so tall.
Two hundred fifty miles from the city where I grew up, I try to hold my lover as we kneel on the bedroom floor. My arms are too short now to wrap around them. They tell me they’re too tired to live anymore and I should leave them. I should leave them. I should leave. I can’t tell whether this is happening now, or last night, or tomorrow, or tomorrow–
I read somewhere that humans are bio-luminescent. Simply by living, we emit a soft light we take with us wherever we go. I am small enough now to fit under the bed comfortably. A place to hide. A place to be looked for in. Our light is a thousand times weaker than our own eyes can see. Here in the dark I realize: if I had no light left, I would never know.