Red Rewind by Laurel Blossom

Midge called to say she’s sorry about Lucy.
Knows, she said, I loved Lucy like a sister

What’s a sister?

When I hug Midge, she stands like ice tongs, arms at her sides.
Who could blame her.
How could she know I forgive her.
Because what did my parents need her for. They had me.
Midge. Midget. Midgette.
Usurper. Usister.

I hate my sister

And still Lucy’s long, low voice on the so-called answering machine.

Red Spanish shawl she brought back from her honeymoon.

Two beige silk shirts, a pair of slacks, scarf I gave her when her hair
____Gifts from Stan when she died that April.
It feels like yesterday.

Pink tulips on the bedside table, petals falling, arm across Stan’s chest.
Her quiet breath. Then in, then no, then out, then not.

Spring in its extreme ephemerality.

Yellow with jaundice, beginnings of growing back black hair on her head, she could hardly open her lavender eyes.

Very thin, except the hands all distorted with swelling, resting on two small pillows.

Lucy, I’m thinking about you all the time, I said.

She said, think harder.

Songbirds, according to the morning paper, are not after all in decline.

She craves birds.

Treatment is no longer an option.

Rain is falling. Black umbrellas, pink and blue umbrellas, flowered umbrellas, umbrella with the face of a frog.

Thy name is mud.

She craves chocolate.

Blue, sunken around the eyes, she pursed her lips the way old people do.

Sour milk.

But even when she lost her train of thought, determined to retrieve it, you could see her drag it back, ribbon of silk like a scarf.

Into her failing, falling body.

It’s spread to her bones.

Lucy said to the doctor, I know this is a trivial question but there’s this red dress I’ve been dying to wear and my friend is having a birthday party. Can I go to the party for a little while, maybe dance one dance, go home? No brace?

The doctor said, you go to that party, you dance. When your back starts to hurt, you put on the brace, wrap a beautiful shawl around your shoulders, stay at that party as long as you want.

Then Stan invited her to dance a slow dance. She made her way down the length of the room, wearing her beautiful red satin dress that showed off her beautiful, treacherous breasts, she rested her cheek on Stan’s chest, they danced a small dance at the edge of the dance floor.

The past rewinds, like clacking film, all the way to the present. Memory catches on the sprockets of grief.

Back on a kind of chemo she has to have administered at the hospital, stronger, not the drip she can wear at home.

Her pain the kind you get when the cancer’s widespread. If Lucy will still be here by Easter.

Lucy with her throaty laugh, her red paint brush, her thimbles and thread. She called the installation Inseparable.

Five scarlet dresses on the gallery wall, long sleeves continuous like women holding covered hands in one long drape or chute. Long skirts extended across the floor, tangled in the middle, passionate as matching blood.

So close we could read each other’s thoughts. So close we got our periods together. So close nobody, not even God, could tell us apart.

I was always a little bit in love with Lucy.

Lucy’s cancer has spread to her so-called liver.

In the beginning, she insisted a tumor behind her left nipple. Would it have been there if she hadn’t made them look?

When asteroids crash into Earth, the heat and pressure make midair showers of tiny, glittering diamonds.

As when Lucy used to laugh at me for describing my fat, flat sister.

Light travels one foot every billionth of a second.

Everything is elegy.

Meantime, the anole’s skin, brown and split, turning white and whiter, body shriveling, eyes enormous, fixed and black.

Like time-lapse photography, jerky strobe.

Tail slipping over, body cramped up, caught on the bark of a Sabel palm.
Couldn’t turn our eyes away, though sure the thing was dead.
Suddenly, with a jerk of the head, translucent skin in its hungry jaws.
Shortly, one white scrap left hanging.
Shortly, the dewlap, red and glowing, vibrant in the noonday sun.

Why not like that, my sister said. Death and resurrection.
Why not like that, I thought.
But no.

Charred ruins like bones of a great cathedral, arches like hands in smoldering prayer.
Buildings falling over and over, endless recurring infinity loop.
Paper money, incense, guilt. Ashes, ashes.

We all fall down.

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