Every time I ask my mother about my broken neck, how it happened and in what order, I know she and my family share a memory I don’t have. Every time I pass that boundary and come up on the other side, seeing the baby boy, seeing her baby boy, in third person, held pieta in her arms, Mom describes me as someone other than and separate from myself. There is a pause, there is a breath, and then she corrects me. Missing, Mom says. Parts were missing—you were never broken. She tells me she didn’t hold me right away. I didn’t cry when I was born blue barely breathing. Blue like the pages of the oceans in an atlas. The blue the body produces in the absence of oxygen must be the same all-consuming blue I see in the windows of my seventh-floor apartment. My panoramic view of Lake Michigan, where there is no separation between lake and sky. At twilight, the blue splashes down the slate-gray walls. I don’t know if it’s the plaster or the lack of insulation causing the temperature to dip below the city ordinance. I tell my property managers, and they tell me to put on more clothes. I tell the city, and they come out and check my apartment and agree it’s too damn cold. They send papers to my property managers, who send the hammers pounding on the roof at 7 a.m. Construction workers block my view, climbing up the creaking iron-pipe structure and shimmying across solo boards of wood between each level—and when they’re finally on the roof, re-shingling, their steps sound like the clopping of hooves in a barnyard hootenanny. When the workers climb past my uncurtained window, I wonder, what’s their take on every dirty dish stacked in the sink? The origamied laundry covering the floor? The tower of trash? Could they get a whiff of the masturbation pit smell? I throw on the same jeans, same gray t-shirt, same pair of purple socks I’ve been wearing, scoop my uncombed hair into a baseball cap, and swing on my backpack. I pause at the door when the unwelcomed, no-bodied thoughts NONFICTION | 45
Fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and art selected for phoebe's 49.1 issue.