The Blue Jay’s Daughter: Commelina…Backwards, Part 5

tumblr_lzlr8oBYYy1qf1hu0o1_500Tuesday 3rd – Year of Elders, 1967 – The Village of Almado

My edges are blurring. I’ve been following the albinos, like a shadow. And I think I may be becoming one. Not an albino. A shadow. But they make me sure of myself. Unlike the water. I daren’t look in it anymore. It should have ended when Commelina stopped disappearing. It hasn’t. Last time I looked, I was an old woman, older even than my nana. Wretched of face, with great lines ploughed beneath the eyes, around the mouth. No laughter there. Never any laughter.

I see the older ones too often these days. As if they’re waiting for something. If they think I’m going to grow into them they’ve got another thing coming. That I will never do. In fact I’m doing all I can to grow up as different from them as possible. For instance, I’ve made sure to laugh at least once an hour every day, whether I’m happy or not. Nana says we attract joy by being joyful. She says we must practise joy, because it doesn’t always come naturally. Sometimes we have to lure it to us and catch it unawares.

I check to see if my laughter lines are coming in every night, but my skin is too young, too elastic.

Commelina is hatched. Yesterday. Fluffy and grey and so grumpy you could use her to cut bread. My nana loves saying that of my mama. My nana is my papa’s mama. I’m not sure my mama has a mama. She’s from far away. Or so she says. I used to sometimes find her in her room, staring out of the window as if she’s lost something precious and doesn’t know where to find it. She was never sad, only wistful. Whatever she’s lost, she knows it’s not coming back. She’s resigned to it. How very sad. She should try laughing once an hour.

She doesn’t stand at the window anymore. Not since the blue jays came. She says they stare at her. Honestly my mama can say the most ridiculous things. Birds don’t stare at anyone. Why would they? Of what importance are we to the birds? They have far greater concerns. From mama and papa’s window, you can just see one edge of the lake, glistening in the sun. Only in the evening when it sets, but I like to be there if I can, to say one last goodnight to Commelina. I wonder how she feels out there all alone. She must miss Rio.

Rio was such a handsome bird.

Mind you, she’s a cygnet now, and too young to marry, so perhaps she’s not in mourning anymore. Or is she still old Commelina wearing a younger skin? It’s too confusing. Commelina reborn or Commelina backwards. Which is it? I find myself less and less able to make sense of a single thing since I started blurring. I’ve even forgotten how to braid my hair. It lies in a tangle down my back. Like seaweed.

I’ve taken to weaving feathers in.

I quite like spying them there amongst the tats and tangles.

My hair is a nest. Perhaps I’ll be an egg in my own nest and hatch myself again. Will I be a new me or will I be old me in a younger skin? Are these silly thoughts for a girl of my age? Nana says that they are. Mama won’t discuss it. Papa barely talks to me anymore, he says I look like a vagrant. Petra thinks I’ve gone mad.

I may have, you know.

I swear I heard the albinos talking. It was like a foreign language. I didn’t know they were foreign. I’ve been trying to work out what it was. Of course I’m not sure it was them, because I’d looked away for a moment or two, distracted by the light twinkling through the branches of trees. I’m easily distracted these days, but then I am blurring.

I’m sure it was them. I’m almost entirely certain we were alone.

 Noos. Gins lliw syaj eulb eht.

Such odd words. They don’t mean anything to me, but I’m not foreign and I speak no other languages.

I’m standing by the wall, trying to blend in. It’s easier now my edges are blurring. I want to hear them talk again desperately. I must see their lips move, so I know it was them.

Gosh, and I don’t even know their names.

I’ve asked everyone in the village. I was so sure someone would know. Introductions are a matter of course here. We’re a small, polite community. But not one person knows. Everyone who’s met the albinos has introduced themselves, but the twins respond only with an inclination of the head. Since hearing them talk, and I’m sure it was them, I’ve been working on a theory.

I don’t think they speak our language. I think those notes are printed, and someone has told them which notes to use for which occasion. But whoever it was, they neglected to give the twins notes bearing their names. This means that they alone, in this entire village, know what they are called. Names are magic. If you own your name and no one else knows it, what could you do? The possibilities would be endless.

And if everyone knows your name. What then?

Noos. Gins lliw syaj eulb eht.

What does it mean? Perhaps Noos is the name of one of the albinos. I should ask them. I do not dare. My ears ring when I get closer to them. My skin tingles, shrinks and burns. And of course there’s the blurring. It might start to fade if I stop shadowing them. But I can’t. They make the world seem safe. I might be blurring but the rest of the world comes into sharp focus. I’m certain it’s all there when I’m near them. Those strange, foreign albinos are my touchstone. Without them I might not know where I stand. I might not stand at all.

The world might disappear from beneath my feet.

I’d rather me blur than everything else.


© Ren Warom 2014


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