Your chest was still warm when I reached inside. The skin split easily, sternum shifting and ribs unbuckling all their joints. I opened you like pulling a zipper. My fingers wormed past your lung and curled around your heart. The heart was warm.
There’s a bag in the corner of the room. Writhing like snakes in a womb, ready to burst. My vengeance.
I tried to put the pieces of you back together. I tried to start your heart. There’s a warmth in my hands from it, burning, a phantom pulse.
Hey brother dear, I can see you in the mirror — our noses are the same. I can’t smile, but if I did, I’m sure our eyes would’ve crinkled the same way. The ghost of you clings in strands around my face. It’s white like bones and I hate it almost as much as you.
Even after she died, I had her watching me, through the grainy haze of the locket. The hinge broke before she was born. And that gave it history, she said, and pressed it into my palm like a promise. The photo was a younger her, milder eyed, before motherhood revealed her fierce like fire and just as playful. I cut it from her graduation yearbook. It was the only photo I had.
She taught me to be fierce, once.
I don’t remember the feeling though. Just the fact.
The locket seemed warm like her. Against the beating of my chest it seemed to echo my heart back. Continual.
What was dead.
Mother use to draw. She remembered everything by drawing it seemed, and I tried to mimic her, to have the same eyes. But I couldn’t find the lens that colored her world. Everything was words to me, spilling out of my mouth and into the air, lost and forgotten the second it caught the wind and drifted. She laughed as they flew away, and showed me letters.
Now it spills all over paper instead. Messier, cluttering floors and desks and back porches where they wrinkle in the dew because she’s not here to pick them up for me when I go in for tea.
The locket was old. Older than the memories my mother didn’t have of her great grandmother, and her mother before. The ribbon tended to fray at the ends. Each year we’d have to retie it, and it grew another finger width shorter. Afterwards, I tied it the same way, up, over and around. I tied it til it choked up around my neck, my pulse clinging to it.
Then one day I visited the woods she drew so much. And her favorite tree had overgrown the others, a withered sampling she swore would make it and I never believed for a second it would.
I swallowed the feeling in my throat. I found it easy, free of constraints, and panicked.
No matter how many leaves I kicked, rocks I peered under, how much I cried and dirtied my hands and feet and knees, hoping to feel it underfoot, the locket never reappeared.
And I didn’t see her again. Not for years and years and years.