By GABBY AVENA
TW: mention of suicidal thoughts
you are asking me to tell you a story, so i open my / mouth only to feel your-limp-tongue lolling out. i am trying to say, “hello!” i am trying to read, “once upon a time.” i am trying to be more than what you left me. still, our-teeth gnash against any word that isn’t this––
we had to learn to share, my sister-and-i.
older by a year, she laid claim to the color purple. there was only one color left for little girls. i hated pink, but it was mine: my-pink, her-purple. once we tried reading a book together––her holding, me flipping––and she brushed off all the places where i touched the page, as if my fingers left invisible stains. in those days, i bewildered myself, guarded my tub of ice cream like a starved animal. back then, her hands were always in control of the controller.
but at the end of the day, we shared a bed. her-clothes were my-clothes. her-mother, my-mother; her-father, my-father. we are sisters, after all.
what we’d share, most of all, were secrets.
at 12, i finally had a room that was mine, all-mine. but sometimes––when her dreams were so bad she couldn’t use the bathroom without me to stand there by the light––i’d let my sister climb into my / bed.
we barely touched, but i tried to hold her in those nights. sometimes, i whispered rhythmic patterns into her back with the soft blade of my fingernail. sometimes, i grasped at the slick, sick thoughts sluicing their way out of her mouth. i watched them pool in the folds of my palms. i watched her tremble.
the first time my sister-and-i shared a hug was the second time she tried to die.
and silly me, i gave her only more nooses to hang from. packed in a too-small suitcase: her first toy, twinkle the teddy bear, a hanky dangling from its fists; the new sweater i knew she’d want to wear, drawstring cinched at the waist; a thick throw blanket to wrap around her body, to keep her warm. surgically sorted out my the psych ward; never got the chance to wrap our arms around her neck.
it was hard to think of her cold.
harder still to hear her living. returned to the other side of our / wall, thin as skin, leaking sound.
my favorite sliver of night was when my-space took shape in silence. she loved to fill its form with herself, her sound, pouring past the computer monitor through our / wall, she would yell ISHOULDHAVEKILLEDHERIWANTEDTOGOUGEHEREYESOUTYOUMOANANDIWISHYOUWOULDSTOPIWISHYOUWERE
im sorry. im sorry. im sorry––
i didn’t mean it. please don’t die. i don’t want to keep telling this story. i dont want to keep killing you when i write. i dont want to keep shining the spotlight on the knife.
i don’t want to keep holding open this wound of yours / mine.