Monday, November 21, 2011

Mile markers

The purple of her hands taunted me with their frailty

Zip. Zip.

Arun's hoodie engulfed me - just as well, since I was desperately trying to ignore the shrill noises of the highway. I chanced a peek forward, Ty was driving. When did he grow a foot? His toes still barely grazed the acceleration. My little guy.

Speedometer, 148mph. Gas, empty, full, running on empty. A stuttering hysterical laugh threatened to break free from my throat. Ty, driving? Ty, swerving. On a packed, deserted highway. Sports cars racing past us, chasing us. Glance out the window, nothing. Ty, underage, younger than age, shorter than height, running in the driver's seat.

Ty, sitting in the witness box. "Lighten your chest, son." "Not your son."
Ty, glaring insolently. "You will answer the question." "Fine. Lighten my chest." He let loose a lusty breath, a brazen smirk flitting across his face. "Yeah?" The cloud of air dissipated, no trace. 
Ty, poker-faced. "She was too much." "Too much?" "You heard me."
I was barely enough. A tease of a taste, inspiring a craving - a single pistachio, the early hours of a TV marathon. Nicknames sagging with the weight of nightmares and sanguine expectation.

Blink, and suddenly it's dad in the driver's seat. Ty's next to me in the backseat, yanking my ponytail while shoving his size 3 foot under my rib cage. The car rang with the impish cheer of his two-index-finger years, vibrated with the thrum of the highway.

Arun sized him up, ever the skeptic, then huffed out a rueful chuckle. "Harass me? If anything, I was the bad influence. I gave her the caffeine addiction, after all. And phone calls at 3 in the morning." "And then she screwed up."
"Yes?" His whisper fell heavy with rust and ashes. "Wish I could say yes. The only thing she did wrong was ask for too much. And I knocked her down for it. Repeatedly."
Because I had too much to give. It pounded through me, clawed out of me, innocence with wax fingers running from a frenzied blaze.

Adrenaline swept through my veins like chilled lava. My hand inched out from the sleeve, its destination left stranded as my grip collapsed. An origami kitten fluttered to the seat by Ty's foot, traces of red ink visible through the folds.

"She cared too much." Angel carded her fingers through her own hair, a distorted mirror of a taunting memory - an impertinent vision of thrones and grapes and a hand languidly soothing over my scalp. "I wrote her letters. I handed her my story, mystery, in a soundtrack. She listened to it, heard what I didn't even know was there. And I couldn't take it back. So I took me back instead."
Because I didn't belong, until you. You translated the crescendo of shadows into a symphony, and now without you, it's morphed into a chanting litany, static in my ear.

The car weaved through ghosts on the street, Dad at helm. Suddenly, gunshot, a red rose bloomed from his shoulder, proud green stem and prickly thorns. No bullet. Another pop, a bullet hole nowhere close to us, yet in the car seat next to Ty, next to me, no, Ty, no, wait…
If I closed my eyes, I could almost pretend it sounded like popcorn exploding in the microwave at movie night. Loud, irregular.

Mrs. Relnik's fingernails tapped a staccato rhythm against the rail. "She forged her mom's signature on a form once." "See, Your Honor, a bad--"
A distracted musing cut through his slow build. "She made a pop-up book about dinosaurs on long-lost planets. I framed one of the patterns she colored for me." "Framed, ma'am?" A stammer - he cut himself off in surprise.
I won a spelling bee for you. It's been my little secret.

Steady. If they would just steady, if the lurches would settle, if the bullets would stop whizzing, I could play the game. Massage the magic spot on my neck, vanish for a little while. Maybe a long one…

The knowledge lurked, crushing and panting, behind his languid gaze. "We could've been twins, you know? Should've been." "T--twins?"
Xavi's eyebrow quirked up even as his voice quieted to a murmur. "Well, different moms. Different birthdays. Minor details." He tossed out a nonchalant smirk.
The smirk was always your tell. Yours to show, mine to know, a bitter aftertaste in both our jugulars.

Ty, all trust and bristling energy, squirming to the tempo of the silencer. His earnest, naïve adoration drools a flood, painting a lake over the road. And the car grows gestures, beating through the sweat of vision.

"I guess...I guess it got too hard." "What did?"
She gave a helpless chuckle, a frantic hand wave with long, artists' fingers -- tried to encompass the words she couldn't lift, the milky threads of burning summer woven into a raging waterfall. "Everything. Phonecalls. Emails. Goodness, I make it sound like we broke up or something. Listen, I don't know, okay! Ask me anything else and I'll know. But if I knew this… well, you wouldn't have dragged me here if I knew." "Listen, Ms. Penny--"
And there was the haughty stare, relishing in delivering a challenge. "Penny to my friends. That's Penelope to you, sir. Why would I tell you anything worth sharing?"
The worst things about the desert are the mirages. A gleefully tempered tempest turned into a parched wasteland, turn of the hat. You put super glue on my idioms, until I sagged under the agony and tore through skin.

Floating an achingly idyllic path as Airplane Ty whizzes around the car, his lilt tripping over his tongue, undulating with eternity. The brakes suddenly hydroplane a powerful void, leaving behind lather and a choppy shore.

"Once in a dozen paces--" "--Excuse me?"
"You're excused." "That's not what I--"
"I know that's not what you. So what are you?" "This isn't about--"
"--Like hell it isn't!"
"Ma'am, let me finish. Once in a dozen paces, and it wasn't enough. But you knead the dough and hope like hell [AHEM] it rises." "Yes, but--"
"I do believe I'm getting kicked out for impertinence. Just too bad, hm?"

The gavel banged onto its bed of petals, deep maroon pulsing with rusted hope.