To me, light is a feeling. I know this doesn’t make much sense, so I’ll elaborate. Light, like other forms of energy, travels in waves. When I was eight I had appendicitis, and it left me in the hospital. For those three days all I wanted to do was sleep. I wouldn’t eat, I refused to stand or talk to anyone, just sleep. So my mom decided to buy me a facemask. That way I could have slept during light hours. And I tried. Believe me, I tried. But somehow, though I couldn’t see any light, I could sense it. I could feel the light waves dancing along my skin, weaving through my atmosphere invisibly. I breathed static and shine. I listened to the sun dripping through the window, assertive, bored, and wide awake.
Sometimes it isn’t even physical. There were always times, times when Eric’s high pitched laugh decorated the walls, times when Moriah’s smile cut the sun that light was an emotion. It was then that I wasn’t covered in waves of light, but I was one.
“Do you know what it feels like to get a piercing?,” Eric said while running a plastic fork through my hair.
“Probably painful. I mean you’d literally be impaled.” I said into my arm, lying face down on the mattress. I turned to face him. “Why do you ask?”
“They look cool.”
“And?,” I asked, sitting up straight. “You know Rudder’s mom pierced his ears with a threaded needle and an ice cube. In case you’re considering.”
He sat and thought. “Okay. Why not. Why not?,” He said.
I smiled. “Yeah. Go for it.” He pulled his lip nervously. I leaned down to look him in the eye. “Do you want me to talk you out of it?”
“Can you talk me out of it?”
“But what’s the worst that could happen? We probably have the supplies somewhere.” Eventually he agreed. We found an empty container of needles and one spool of thread in the pile of boxes that collapsed with the couch. We brought some ice cubes from lunch, through they mostly melted by the time we got back. I sat him down on the couch, setting down the supplies next to me. Licking the thread, and looped it through the crooked needle.
“That was really fast, woah.” Eric said, examining the needle. “Do you sew?”
“Yeah, Anne taught me.” I said. He fell silent for a second. “Okay, let’s do this.” I put the ice on his ear and told him to hold it still. I lifted the needle to his ear.
I dropped my arm. “Yeah?”
“Can I tell you something?”
“No bullshit?” He said, pulling on his lip.
“Definitely no bullshit.”
“No pulp,” I laughed.
“Okay I’m really terrified.”
“Is that it?” I said, laughing. “That’s fine, you don’t have to.”
He paused. “No… but I want to.”
“Okay then I will.” I raised my arm again. “Breath in.” I lifted the needle to his ear. He breathed uneasily. In less than a second the needle was through his ear.
“Oh woah.” He said, letting out his breath. “That wasn’t so bad. Actually it kind of stings but it’s not what I thought impalement would feel like.”
He winced as I pulled the rest of the string through his ear. Tying the ends together, I sat back. “Ta-da. It’s a… string earing.”
He beamed, feeling his ear. “Not bad.”
“I mean, it’s not like you can see it.”
“Well it feels fine, then.” He responded.
“What feels fine?” Marcel said, wandering into the room.
“Aaron pierced my ear, look.” He turned his head to show Marcel.
“Mh.” She tapped her chin, examining it. “I don’t know,” She turned around. “Sir?” She called out, “I need a second opinion. Get over here.” Sir made their way over and knelt. He sucked through his teeth.
“I don’t know. Moriah?” Soon everyone was crowded around Eric’s ear discussing if it was a bad idea.
“Y’all, it doesn’t matter anyway. What’s done is done.” I said. They all sneered at me, and then continued bickering. I pushed off of the couch, swamped with people surrounding Eric. Escaping to the mattress upstairs, I eased next to Orion. Lying down next to her, I rubbed her ribs. Resting my hand on her fur, I paused. That was the moment I realized she wasn’t breathing. Then so did I. Turning her over, I drifted underwater. My lungs expanded and contracted, filling with ocean.
That night we began digging her grave in the courtyard. We had no shovels, but the dirt was loose and un-compact. We hacked at the ground with sticks until the sun rose, and we kept her body wrapped in a sheet. By 12:00 pm the next day, the hole was complete. We lowered her into the earth, and began pouring the dirt back over. In those hours there was only one sentence spoken, and it was Marcel’s. It’s a shame, but I’m not surprised. Eventually the grave had been dug, filled and packed down. I pushed my shard of wood into the dirt as a headstone, knelt to the ground where I stood, and fell asleep.
This time when I rose from a death it was different. I know a sister and a pet are different, after all Anne was my lifetime and Orion was only a couple weeks. At least after what happened in Orlin, I expected a shift. This time nothing had changed. We ate at the usual soup kitchen and slept at the same times. They were the same people I met those weeks before. I wasn’t new, exactly. I was rearranged. Each time a person splinters, they put themselves together slightly different. Stronger. So the next day each one of my gears turned differently. We didn’t have and flowers for the grave, so Moriah made one out of tangerine peels. Pushing it into the dirt, she stood back.
“Well. I tried.”
“It sucks that there aren’t many real flowers nearby. Everything is dying this time of year,” Eric said, “I feel like Orlin was more flowery in general.”
“Orlin is also a county. New York is well, New York.” I said while easing onto the concrete.
“Yeah true. From what I’ve seen there’s not much compared to anything on the way here.”
“Well, I guess I don’t have that much experience… neither of us are real New Yorkers anyway,” I said, “Just y’all.” I gestured to Marcel and Sir. After a moment, Sir responded.
“I disagree.” I raised my eyebrows.
“Really. About what?” I asked.
“The whole New Yorker thing. I’ve never really got that ‘real New Yorker’ thing people talk about. I think it’s bullshit.”
“I mean… sure? Why?” I asked, shifting my weight to face them.
“Every person came here for their own reason. Whether it’s running to or from something, it is valid,” Sir said, “If you found your way here, you are a true New Yorker”
If you are searching for someone else, or maybe even yourself, welcome home.