I keep dreaming of the ocean; I wake up feeling the tug of the tide on my calves.

That’s as far in as I go. In dreams and in real life. It’s not the waves or the fact that my brother drowned that holds me back. That happened long ago in a pool, after all. I don’t have an irrational fear of going under. I’m a good swimmer. One blue, lifeless baby was enough for my parents. They signed me up at the Y where I learned all the strokes.

No, it’s not the facts or the circumstances as they hazily re-present themselves. It’s that I forgot them for so long. Forgot him, forgot me…forgot the helpless panic that raced up and down the back of my tiny legs as I watched him sink like a doll.

I’m scared of what else I’ll remember if I let the waves wash over me.

He was my twin brother. His name was Sterling.

Gone, gone, whisked away to grow up in a parallel universe, some Louisiana mardi gras in my mind where there’s an endless party with accordions, trombones and crepe paper, whiskey and fruit juice and crooked white teeth...an exhilerated, kick out the jams kind of shindig where everyone gets tipsy but no one gets drunk and old men tell the story of how jazz was born in funeral marches, a combination of Dixie land suits, European time signatures and master-slave resonances…

Every ending is a beginning. Look back and see.


But Sterling, you’re already dead…

I watch TRUE and Fitz dive through the trough of a breaking wave. They disappear as it comes crashing down. The spray hisses and the tide sucks, hungrily.

A few seconds later their heads pop up. Water shoots off their hair in pellets.

It sure looks like fun, but what if you went under and came back up as someone else?

What if you suddenly remembered something so hideous that it cracked your mind in half like a coconut?

But Sterling, you’re already dead…

In that first second that it came back to me, it was just like it was yesterday: I felt myself huddled among a little group of crying, sighing ladies. There was the smell of cedar and mothballs. The light was strange and someone’s hand was heavy on my shoulder as several men made their way carefully down the marble steps, maneuvering a small brown coffin between them.

It was small, but cumbersome—a shiny cherry wood case.

The ladies cried quietly at the sight of it.

I remember finding my mother’s hand and tugging on it.

“That’s a heavy box,” I said to her.

“That’s right,” she said. She looked down at me as though from a great distance. Her eyes were funny looking.

“It’s a heavy box. A heavy, heavy box.”

I felt her shudder and sway. Someone from behind took my hand and gently pulled me from her.

We never spoke about my brother again.


No comments: