“One deep breath,” she says. “Can you do that for me?” I open my mouth to tell her that I am breathing, that I’m fine, what the hell is she talking about. It turns out it is possible to forget to breathe. My brother and I are curled up in laundry baskets, pretending to be puppies. I can tell that Raphael is starting to outgrow his basket; its plastic sides are stretched out and discolored. He has taken my favorite blanket to line his dog bed. I was generous and let him have it, but now I can see that his nose is dripping and that the snot is getting on the blanket that I sleep with, and it is just disgusting. “Give it back to me,” I order and try to tug it out from underneath him, but Raphael howls and my mother comes running to chastise us. My mother tells me sometimes, when I’ll listen, that my brother and I didn’t always get into fights. My mother says to me: “You don’t remember this because you were too little when it happened. When Raphael was born, you crawled into bed with us. Think about it, the three of us together in that narrow hospital bed.”
And I cover my ears and dance around and say: “La la la! If I don’t remember it, it must not really have happened!” I tell my boyfriend about Raphael and he looks shocked and maybe slightly embarrassed, which in turn makes me feel embarrassed for bringing up the topic. We have only just started dating. I don’t want to be that crazy girl with the suicidal brother that he tells all of his friends about after he dumps me. The crazy is leaking out of my ears and mouth and eyes and I know that he can see it. He hugs me and says: “I’ll distract you. We can smoke some weed. Maybe watch a movie or something.” All I want to do is kiss him and kiss him and kiss him until my lips are raw, and not speak and hardly breathe. He won’t kiss me for more than a minute or two. I tell myself it’s a normal reaction. People don’t like to mix sex and death. Especially not so early in a relationship. But I want the sex because it will make me feel alive; it will push away all the death until I can’t sense it poking at my skin and trying to get inside me, and maybe it will convince me for a few gasping seconds that no one could ever die.
Clerestory Journal of the Arts