Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A Light at the End

33,300 words.

I am tumbling through this new book like some wild animal, ripping off pieces o fthis and that with my teeth, gnawing on them a while and then scurrying off into some other dark place.

Good-ish news, a benevolent agent is combing through Two Rivers with me, offering so much valuable criticism. I am hoping that after revisioning the book again, he'll be captivated enough to take it on. Right now, it's not ready. I knew this, but I needed help. I am so, so grateful for this. I feel like the novel will have a new life soon...

Anyway, back to my beautiful diversion:

After she was gone, a certain peace descended on our house. It was like those soft moments in movies, a montage, a sort of collage of happy snippets set against an upbeat soundtrack.

When I remember those first few days, I still remember music instead of words. My father and mother smiling, holding hands. We got a real Christmas tree for the first time that year. Here is my father throwing the white limbed metal one in the trashcan. Here is my mother pricking her finger on a needle as we sat together in the kitchen stringing cranberries and popcorn onto an invisible thread. Here I am, standing knee deep in fresh snow in a new pair of boots that I saw and wanted and my mother bought and gave to me later wrapped in a green tissue paper. These moments are strung together in my memory on a thread that sang Bob Denver carols. The Carpenters. Each red berry against the whiteness of popcorn, the whiteness of snow.

But at the movies we know that the montage is never at the end of the movie. It always comes right before everything falls apart.

The string, pulled too tight. All of the berries spilled onto the floor.

On Christmas Eve, Tara walked into a diner on _________ Street, ordered a slice of pumpkin pie, a cup of coffee. Before she had even finished the coffee, she went to the restroom, sat down on the toilet, and swallowed three red capsules: a Christmas gift from her boyfriend. She returned to the counter where her coffee had grown cold and the waitress had taken away her plate. She sipped the coffee, felt the capsule hard in her throat. And then, she her fingers disappeared. Then her wrists, her elbows, her arms. She threw off her coat, expecting that he arms had dissolved; she couldn’t feel them anymore. Her waist, her hips, her legs. She tried to get the waitress’s attention, tried to let someone know that she was the invisible woman, that soon, the only thing left would be the clothes that hung on her transparent bones. Neck. Face. Eyes.

We got the call that Tara had overdosed on PCP on Christmas Day. She’d been admitted into Bellevue after she wandered out into the middle of the street. She’d been struck by a car but not hurt. She was convinced it was because she had no body anymore. That she’d left her body on that red vinyl stool at the diner.

My father didn’t say much to the doctor on the other end of the line; he only nodded, his head like a toy, bobbing on his shoulders. I felt sorry for him, in his Christmas tree sweater my mother had given to him. I can still remember that feeling; it was like chewing on tinsel.

“Tell them she’s emancipated,” my mother said. She was holding a pair of Santa and Mrs. Claus candleholders. It looked like she was strangling them. “She’s not our responsibility anymore.”

My mother took the tree down the day after Christmas, dragged it out to the trash all by herself. She vacuumed up the needles, muttering that we’d never get a real tree again. But even after the tree was gone, after every needle had been removed, the scent of pine lingered.

My parents did not go to get Tara from the hospital. She was released and fined for possession of an illegal substance.

A month later, I saw her picture on a cover of a magazine, and I didn’t recognize her face.

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