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Iridescent Veins

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She stands at the rim of the Western side and I stand at the rim of the Eastern one. We give one another the signal to plunge. I’ll not jump to the Western side in order to bridge our gap and she’ll not jump to the Eastern precipice. Instead we both jump into the heart of the chasm.

Like the macrame trimming a Brazilian hammock, our veins protude from our toes, fingers, and belly-buttons and form a fringe that spans the Grand Canyon. They weave together in a basket pattern where they meet. The ones from our belly buttons form a matrix so dense that it’s more like a cord than a basket and it wraps around our waists. The veins are so long however, that we are able to move about as far as we like independently.

We embrace tightly as we reach the center with benign nothingness below us and descend. A cape made of catclaw acacia and stream orchid appears around our shoulders. Both of our heads fit through the neck hole of the cape and it falls around our shoulders. It fills with air from the velocity of our fall but it does not blow up to cover our faces. Rather, it forms a parachute and buffers our entry into the water.

We float down with the current until we are finally washed upon the rocky, sandy banks of the Colorado River. We stay in the embrace for a while with the wet cape clinging to us. We don’t check the cord for we know that it is intact. With our fingernails we pry pebbles and reeds from our dangling networks of veins and bounce the ends of one another’s canyon-lake-water soaked hair in the other’s palms as we slosh along dragging the veins behind us. We switch from from hair bouncing to vegetation cape pulling to encourage the water to let go.

We emerge from the canyon and are lying in the hallway of the house that dad built every night and weekend for three years after working forty hours a week at the Air Force base. We didn’t live there as toddlers but in this moment we are three and four and a half. Giggling and awake at 5 am on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa Claus. The shag carpet itches our cheeks. The canyon flower cape has dried and we play with it.  She puts it on her head and pretends that it is her very long hair and flings it over her shoulder and cocks her hip out to say, “Look at my fabulously long hair.”  She takes it off for my turn and I put it around my waist pretending that it is a poodle-skirt and we subconsciously reach for a jitterbug twirl position. When our fingers are secured, we twirl one another like the grown ups do.

We distract ourselves from the anticipation of opening our gifts for as long as we can. Finally Mom calls us trying to sound happy.  But, she is wringing her hands in her night gown. The anxiety of what cruelty Dad has planned to ruin our joy courses through the cord. Our heads go back into the neck hole of the cape and we shuffle towards our stockings hanging above the brick fireplace that Dad built.

Any joy experienced by anyone for any reason other than his exhaulted greatness is a threat to his existence. Any autonomy cannot be tolerated by the pathological jealousy of the narcisisst. He takes the Christmas Candy from the coffee table and places it on the counter just out of reach of our tiny hands.

We look at Dad asking permission to take down the stockings. He doesn’t see the riparian cape and shoves our shoulders apart so that we can dump our stockings out without tripping on one another. We dump out the oranges, lip gloss, pecans and macadamean nuts and kiddles. We are 8 and 9 1/2 now. We immediately turn to the giant boxes that are under the tree and Mom gathers up the stocking stuffers and smiles but I hear her voice crying in my head and associate it to this particular smile. I had prayed a hedge
of thorns around her before school a few days earlier as the Bible says to do. I hadn’t heard the preacher mention that it was for those whose spouse needs protection from straying.  I had only heard the protection part.

We are excited to open the large boxes but notice that Dad is especially excited about it and become suspicious. His joy is never celebrating our joy so we know something is up.  We hope that we are wrong and imagine they contain go carts or a accordians or giant puppies or a canopy bed.

They instead contain another large box that has been nested inside and so on and so on like Russian Babushka dolls. We finally reach the smallest box and it is the size of a watch box.  We look at each other thinking, “Oh my Gosh, he bought us some beautiful jewelry!”

We open that box and each find a newspaper pouch. We unfold the layers of newspaper forever until we finally reach the middle. Each middle contains one nickle and five pennies.  Dad howls with glee and we look at one another confused and throw them on the ground turning to the other gifts. Mom exhales.

We open the Lincoln-Logs and Lite-Brite set. Mom is waiting for Dad’s cue to tell us to go to the carport for one more gift. We find our bicycles with banana seats and Monkey handle bars.  Hers is pink and white, mine green and silver. We hike up our gowns and ride them in the front yard until Mom makes us go in and get dressed.

In my forties, one day after therapy I was able to piece together some of an old memory that had sent me there. But it was my sister, Kim, who named the culprit. I called her to discuss the memory from my session. I asked if she remembered when I was three and Mom and Dad went to Memphis for the weekend.

They left me with Dad’s mom at the second family farm in Mena, Arkansas. They left Kim at Grandma Irby’s in Morgan; near Mayflower, Arkansas.

I recounted my memory. “I am floating above myself and see the back of my hair. I see the geckos on the screen door and I see myself walking past a man who is smiling at me but his smile makes me feel afraid.” Kim says, “It’s Carl.” Grandmother Davis’ abusive boyfriend. She describes him just as I see him in my memory. We talk about the hole Dad still had in his chest from where Carl had kicked him with his turkey toed boot for trying to pull him off of his sister when he was about seventeen.

Kim begins to describe my memory as if it were hers. She sees Grandmother Davis’ house. Sees her funnel me past Carl’s creepily smiling face and into her bedroom. She sees her hoist me high upon her bed with the flowered bedspread. She describes her opening the giant filigree box filled with every colored rhinestone imaginable adorning her costume jewelry collection.

I take over narrating my memory of how she allowed me to play with the jewelry and how it seemed that soon after I must’ve passed out. We wonder aloud if they’d drugged me and we recount how Grandmother Davis always gave Dad tranquilizers when we were growing up.

“Honey,” I say, “that is not your memory.” “How do you know this?” “I have never spoken of it, the geckos, the jewelry, the bedspread, Carl, and you were never there.” “I never knew who the man was.”  “How did you know this?” “You were at Grandma Irby’s house. You were eighteen months old.”

We become confused and try to figure out what just happened. She recounts it again and this time remembers seeing Mom and Dad drive off and leaving me there.  So small.  She sees the memory too as if she is floating.  She can see the back of my head and describes
me walking past Carl just as I see it in my memory. I see them removing the clothes from my limp body and Kim throwing her head back and wailing as Grandmother Irby tries to find the source of her fit. I see a concrete floored structure that I don’t recognize, then my three year old self alone and peering into a bucket of water.

It was as if she’d astro-projected there.  The chord of veins had reached for 140 miles that weekend.

We pieced together that must’ve been the time when she would not allow Grandma Irby to remove her clothes to bathe her that night while Mom and Dad were away. Grandma Irby was distraught that she’d had to put her to bed without a bath and recounted
the story many times over the years. She would say that Kim had a temper and would explain how she had become unglued the moment grandma had attempted to remove her dress for a bath. She had to let her sleep in the dress that night because Kim
had screamed  herself purple. Grandma Irby said she snubbed (her word for sniffling as a toddler does after a long cry) afterwards for almost an hour and there was no explanation for her behavior.

 

On the contrary, Grandma Davis had not even attempted to bathe me before returning me to my parents. My mother told me many years later that when they’d come to pick me up, the top of my hair was caked with mud as if I’d been ground into the dirt head first. They took me to the doctor. Not long after, Grandmother Davis shot Carl fourteen times for trying to rape her and she was sent to the Benton State Hospital for shock therapy.

I’ve sold the stratavarius; the one that belonged to Carl and that Dad had sworn to be the valuable kind. I’ve burned the flowered bedspread that I found in the chink-log cabin at the farm in Paris, Arkansas. I’ve stomped the rhinestones from their casings.

 

My sister’s veins are black and white and filled with stained glass windows, Bibles and church pews. Mine are gray and filled with tree branches, moonstones and feathers. But where they weave, both sets are iridescent.

Back at the shore of the canyon we see a turtle with a tiny bird on it’s back.  The bird has a twig of mesquite in it’s mouth and does not fly away when we simultaneously bend down to look at them.  The sun warms our naked butts peeking out beneath the cape. The sand cakes our vein fringe. I am the turtle with my home on my back.  She is the bird with the twig for her nest. I carry her now. I scream purple now. I astro-project through the iridescent vein cord now.

We notice some stained patches on the pile of veins behind us. Splotches, the color of congealed blood.  We don’t want the stained pieces any more and pierce them with tiny straws. She pierces the Western edge of each stain and I pierce the Eastern edge and we
both blow bubbles through them with so much force that they finally become iridescent again and sparkle like the Eiffel Tower does for five minutes every hour on the hour when it is lit with golden glittery lights in the Paris night.


 

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