We have just gotten out of the car. The baby is new. It is strapped to me. It is a warm ball that gurgles and suckles in timed intervals. Larry The Neighbor has come out of his house. He walks toward us, his shaved head looks as velvety as my baby’s back with its short, fine hairs. He asks what we have named the baby. I tell him. He walks slow circles around us, in pause. He laughs. “That is not a name.” He has picked up his pace as he moves around us. “That is a nonsense name!” He proclaims. Larry The Neighbor now twirls like a whirling dervish, spinning around us faster, and faster. I build a cocoon around myself. The baby sleeps against my body. Inside I become a soup of self, the baby suspended in the goo. My cells break down and eat the parts of me I do not need. The hunger, the busyness, the tendency to be self-deprecating, my messiest parts at the corner of the cells’ mouths. They fashion a clear exoskeleton for me. They rewire me inside of it. When I begin to break out of the cocoon, I can see that Larry The Neighbor has now become a tornado spinning ferociously about us. “It is what we call her.” I tell him and he spins his way home making a mess of his front door as through it he barrels. I hear his wife yelling something at him and his messes. I bend down and kiss the top of the baby’s head. I trim the exoskeleton and make one for her. As I weave the bits about, I tell her, this shield is your real name, don’t bother telling anyone, for they will never believe what they cannot see.
Stories We Will Never Know
Her sister has died. The large, rusty cars of her family line XXX Street as if they are a barricade against grief. We have moved our own to the side street to make more room. Frances’s house sits on the top of a high hill and the family makes a procession of bowed heads moving a disappearing line into the hold of the small, old, white and black bungalow. The Hosta plants peaking between weeds in the flower beds eat the tears as the procession slowly moves in to the wake. From the house and down the long, steep drive comes a trickle of growing water. A strong tide for an ant. Down it goes and it seems to be singing. I walk to the little river and put a magnifying glass out to study it. It is rushing with great intention. It could be a great home to a vast assorted tardigrade family. Little water bears, little faceless manatees floating along. But there is a humming one can hear when they focus on this little river moving from the house. And then I see them. Little people in little boats. They row their way down the little rapids of tears. They are wearing their best hats and are holding long bouquets with the roots hanging down to hairy ends at their feet. They are singing a song alternating between D minor and G minor and it is the story of the sister’s life. They are carrying her story carefully, but it isn’t for me. I will never know the story of the sister. Only that she stopped when we came to live in this home across the street from her and she said, “This house was empty, and now I love to see all that life back within its yard.”