We are at the fair, my father sitting at a picnic table eating fudge and chain smoking Marlboro Reds. My mother is standing at the end of it, surveying the land for us. I see her before she sees me. She looks younger. Beautiful. Her face is turned away, tightening the lines of her neck, hiding the wrinkles at the edges of her eyes; her eyes lit up in the sun, bright and clear. Our eyes meet. I can feel us both relax in the gaze. She holds up a honey stick and waves it, beckoning me back. A dreamy honey siren. I begin to run to her and my father looks up over the top of his black-framed glasses. He begins to laugh. Then they are gone.
When I wake up, the room is black. It’s still nighttime. The fan swirls over the bed in a calming white noise ocean blowing every four seconds against my face. I close my eyes and try to get myself back. I recreate it. I put myself in the same outfit. I put them in the same place. I inhale and exhale slowly with purpose to return. My insides ache—mostly my heart.
Aggravated, I turn over. Away from it. Into you. You’re still here. You like being here. This has become, even after just a few weeks, your side of the bed. Needing is a weakness that only children are allowed. That’s what I was taught. But I reach out anyway and let my fingers slide over your hip bone to your belly. Warm, smooth flesh I have somehow memorized from sleepless nights like this. Traced meticulously, like all of you, on nights when my brain refuses to let me back in.
I press my face into your backbone, cracking my nose and inhaling. You smell like sweat, pot, whiskey, and sex. I want to wake you up. I want to tell you that I saw my parents and that they looked happy and we were at the fair again like old times and that I was happy too and… But you don’t know that side of me. Yes, you know they died. Yes, you know I say I’m fine. Yes, you know I don’t talk about it because it’s fine, really, I am fine, parents die, it’s not a big deal, it’s nothing.
You push your fingers into mine, pull my hand up to your chest and kiss the back of my knuckles and I forget I want to wake you up. The want to tell you I’m sad is replaced by the want to tell you I love you. But we haven’t done that yet. It’s too soon. It’s not what I do. I don’t know if it’s what you do.
My father is driving. My mother sits beside him. Her hair is done. I am laying on the maroon velvet material in the backseat with my toes against the window, staring at the ceiling. The material has come unpinned and it billows above me like tan waves. My parents aren’t speaking, but I hear them. The comfort in being together in the shared silence is how love exists in my house. To say it all with a touch. A look. A breath escaped in a laugh, a sigh, or a moan.
My fingers pull at the material on the floor. Rough strings of fuzz I twist over and over again. Out of the corner of my eye, I see my mother push her fingers playfully into my father’s shoulder. They both turn to smile at one another. I ask what is so funny. My mother turns her head to me, her eyes lit up in the sun, bright and clear. She opens her mouth to speak, but I can’t hear her.
When I wake up, the room is lighter. I am still pressed against your back. Hours have passed. My fingers are no longer in yours but holding your arm. My other hand, still at your head, is asleep. What was so funny? What were they smiling about?
I turn over. Away from you. Into the part of the room still untouched by sunrise. You turn too. Your legs fold into the bends of mine and your fingers slide over my hip bone to my belly.
“Are you okay?” I don’t know whose voice asks it. We both sigh our answer, falling back to sleep.