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"Heroine Man", excerpt

Saturday 10/20/19

This morning I wrote the forty-eighth short story since June 2018. By that I mean work of short fiction. It does not not count the novel, the arts pieces, the op-eds, the journal entries, the personal essays, the reviews, if one wishes to call them that, though I find the term too limiting given what is created. I'm shaking after writing this. I will send it to my inner circle in a bit, but I just want to keep it here with me for the moment. I want to sit with it. Not because I need to fix anything. You can't write something more powerful. You tell me how many worlds there are in the third paragraph alone. This is the person an entire industry wishes to keep from the world. This is what they are doing every single day, fully completed work, in form and vein never the same, every single day. I just want to sit with it. It's called "Heroine Man." This is how some of it goes.


***


“It doesn’t help anyone for you to behave like this,” my sister said. Her comportment lengthened the age gap between us, already considerable. I wore a lot of costumes. I’d make them. I put a big H in electrical tape on the front of a sun-faded Cape Cod T-shirt the color of a baked clam shell and I told everyone I was Heroin Man. I didn’t know what it was but I thought it was probably irredeemably bad, like shaved diamonds in your food, and would require stamping out and a super hero to do the job.


Because she was my hero—though I would have put a match to my balls, naturally, rather than outwardly concede the point—I figured it might also eventually get my sister and she would have to be on her guard. I was a PSA, that was my costume, and I would make sure I better informed myself later, I’d research, in time to forestall what would eventually kill her, though obviously I didn’t.


In our family it was a truism that I was always cold, though this was false, and she’d lend me her hoodies when I had no need of them. When we watched movies she would take one off, a single motion, without my asking and pass it to me. I’d slip into it like I was slipping under it, as one does with a comforter, but with sleeves, put the hood up, feeling the heat coming off the back of my neck mixed with the heat that was still there from her head. She never wore socks and her feet never got cold, which I thought about later when I found her, the way her feet would feel when she would accidentally rest them against me and I would let her keep them there.


“Jessica is only going to be with us for three weeks,” our fourth grade teacher said, by way of introduction. Jessica, the title character, stood aside her at the front of the class. I looked at her legs, she had a skirt on, because that is where you will see people shake, how I would shake in front of my new class, but she did not even rock on the balls of her feet. We were drawing that day. When people think about the anniversaries of a death they think about the date when that person left the world, but I think about their last day of life, the day before. I was awful at drawing. For some reason this made me ashamed. Not because I was a world beater in everything else. My sister was very artistic. She used our mother’s potter’s wheel. My dad called her a virtuoso, another word I knew I would learn someday but was already formidable to me. Jessica was my drawing partner on that first day. What I was good at was hang time. I practiced. Hanging in the air when I played basketball and made my moves. It was my super hero component. It was what I could really impress you with if there was great need for me to do so.


I tried hard with my reds that day. Red was my go-to color. I executed them best, even if my baseline in these matters was buried in the ground. “Three weeks, huh,” I said, unsure if I had asked her a question, but she did not shake verbally either, no rocking on the balls of her words, which I figure are the vowel parts. “I’m just between families again,” she replied. The “just” and the “again.” “Let me help you,” she added, taking my drawing, my very red drawing, with some oranges and yellows mixed together, also to make red. She brought a tissue from her pocket and moved it to her tongue, wetting it. Then she rubbed the tissue against my reds and they became positively burnished, they went from colors to fires, from garment-hood to contained, commingled air and essences on the back of the neck. I already knew I would miss her.