There isn’t a name yet for my condition. Technically, it’s selenophobia, but that’s only what they label it. It’s something more ethereal, like the earth hasn’t forgiven me for what I’ve done.
She was only supposed to become part of it for a twinkling blink, but taking advantage of the corneal reflex, it took her away, the waves became part of her, barnacles collapsed into her skin as if they were leeches in a lake, but this wasn’t a lake, it was the Gulf, and the green claimed her, the seaweed shut her eyes in finality.
Her parents are my parents, but they won’t ever really be. People like to pretend when they take me in at months at a time, some even want me to call them mama, which squirms at me and can’t seem to ever roll of my tongue. This time they told me the word I always hated to hear: adoption. I had dreaded it in the past, at least, but now I found that my tongue could finally move in the right direction, and the words spilled out as if words weren’t my own but something given to me, and I just had to obey.
She was picking me up from school in her giant navy SUV, and my friend asked who this one was and I said, “Oh, that’s my mom.” Her windows were rolled down, her eyes hidden by dark, round sunglasses, but I knew they were smiling, watering, and I blushed, fought something inside me away. This same feeling came from the extra blankets my last family wrapped me in the night before I left for good. They knew, I didn’t.
Around the casket, they held me around their arms, shaking, and introduced me as their son. People, family, distant ones who were probably used to this, smiled at me through a red face and smeary eyes as if I was their new golden retriever and said how much they had loved her, their niece, their cousin, their friend. Mostly, no one knew, and so I shoved my guilt away as far as it could hide, somewhere near where my dinner was hiding, but every once and awhile someone looked my way with a half grin, trying to consolidate me through a glance or trying to figure me out one-in-the-same, and both my cheeseburger and that dark, wet night would gurgle around in my gut wishing to flee.
She bent down, came to my level, looked into my eyes, and asked if I wanted to sit down. She must have seen my grab my tummy.
“No,” I said.
I was her brother, I am your son. I didn’t say this, but I wanted to scream it. I wanted the old, white-haired ladies who sat in the back with their make-up-stained kerchiefs to hear it. Do you know?
She may have been your blood, but I saw it spill for the last time. Maybe not in reality, but it was in her eyes when the waves capsized. Behind her big, brown ones, the moon was white in the sky, his face in sad surrender to his own power, one he had no control over, he was made to fold the oceans like pages, a scroll that wrapped her with it.
The calendar read full moon. She said, “Let’s sneak out, the waves will be like jumping over the moon itself.” We ran out of the house, forgot our shoes. Laughing, we stole the night air in our mischief.
I followed her bouncing, long blonde hair, just like her mother’s, the salt in the air stinging my eyes, and the pavement’s loose rocks jabbing the bottoms of my feet, but there’s something so unbroken about running. It’s like Peter Pan in the air, a flight you can only take through faith, and I knew this must be what family feels like.
We ran until the ocean water was heavy all around us, we cried, drooled through heaving laughter, and then she said, “jump.” My lungs weren’t used to all this movement or the tumultuous frivolity.
Every leap, I spotted the moon. “I’ve never seen the moon so huge before!” I screamed through the crashing. She laughed, didn’t answer.
The moon frightened me. I thought it would swallow me whole in his disheartened face. I wondered what he was sad about, but he must be able to tell the future. Or maybe time doesn’t exist at all, and when I stood in the funeral hall, her bending toward me, hands upon my shoulders, my sister was going under at that moment instead, I was carrying her in my shoulders, I was screaming for help, I saw lights in a nearby house, I waited for hours for the ambulance though they say it was only twenty minutes, I will remind them that time was invented to console the destitute humans survive, get by, and as my suit constricts me to this moment, this lonely hour, I will become more myself in my own given skin. I will not run like I feel I should because it is night, and I am afraid of the moon. And now I realize why the moon makes such a hollow face. He is afraid of himself.