Now I know that much of my mama is sleight of hand, illusion, I begin to wonder how much of me is real? How much is make believe, artifice? Of course I understand we all pretend to an extent, but we’re not all walking illusions like my mama. Nor do our pretences affect us physically as hers seem to. As mine do.
I’ve hidden my feathers from them for such a long time that they’ve gradually stopped growing. Of course, it’s only recently I’ve thought that the lack of new feathers must be some offshoot of that lie. A symptom. I think lies, like illness, like viruses, create symptoms. We might presume we’ve avoided detection, but we are nonetheless detected.
Most of us lie to conceal, you see, and even conceal the lie from ourselves because we must believe a lie in order to sustain it. But deep down, we know. And that’s where the symptoms come from.
Sweating palms. A clenching stomach. Headaches. Nausea. So indicative of a cold or chill we prefer to assume we’re coming down with something, when the truth is we’re already sick. It made me ill to hide the feathers from my family, so ill I have all but stopped growing them.
I have denied myself. Just like my mama.
Connect us in that way and there seems to be connections in others. I think I inherited my feathers. Entirely possible for it to be genetic, now I know my mother is nothing but a projection, created to fool us. By hiding herself, by lying to us day in and out, she has made herself sick–and lost herself. I am certain she once had feathers too. I am her daughter after all.
When did she lose herself? I’d like to think it wasn’t us, but I’m not sure. I torment myself with the notion that we were the first to judge, that her discomfort with my feathers was only a reflection, an echo, of my discomfort with hers. Or my father’s discomfort. Perhaps my nana’s.
We repress one another without meaning to sometimes.
Thursday 12th – Year of Elders, 1967 – The Village of Almado
I grew a feather. It’s bright red. Cardinal. Red like sin, nana would say. I couldn’t bring myself to tell mama and papa, even though I know I should. Hiding like this, lying like this, it’s making me something I’m not.
In the end I decided to go and tell Commelina, but she wasn’t on the pond. I found her at the albinos’ house. Sat on their table, cool as you please, tame as a dog, with one of the albino twins sat beside her, feeding her buttered toast.
I turned to leave, only to find the other twin behind me. Staring.
‘I grew a feather,’ I said. I don’t know why. ‘It’s red. Mostly they’re blue, but now and then I’ll get a red one.’
‘?Der elik ouy od.’
The twin takes my hand, leads me in through the front door. Sits me down at the table and hands me a finger of buttered toast.
‘Do you like red?’ the other twin asks as I take a bite.
I blink at her/him. ‘Do I like red? What kind of question is that?’
‘Important,’ says the first twin. ‘I’m Assumption.’
‘Avarice,’ says the other twin, handing Commelina another piece of toast.
‘We knew your mother,’ they say together, seamless.
‘I’m glad someone does,’ I say, and take a bite of my toast. It’s delicious.
They laugh. Assumption pours me a cup of tea. I hadn’t noticed the teapot before. Everything is taking on a dreaming quality. For a moment I actually want to see a cup of tea in front of Commelina, even though it’s not there. I think. No. There it is. Does she take one lump or two?
‘One lump or two?’ Assumption asks.
‘One.’ This has happened before. Or it could have. Or it will do. In this house anything is possible I think. Or is it these two? Energy sings between them, an invisible arc of it, thrumming oh so quietly beneath the silence. Not a sound as such, more something I feel in my bones, at the roots of my hair. ‘I…why…’
‘No questions,’ Avarice says, smiling. ‘Not time yet. The Blue Jays aren’t singing.’
‘But they will soon,’ Assumption adds, as if to offer comfort. To whom I’m not entirely sure.
‘Eat your toast,’ Avarice urges. ‘It’ll only go to waste otherwise.’
So I sit and I drink my tea, and they drink their tea, and Commelina perhaps pecks at hers as if it’s pond water. And we eat toast, round after round of hot buttered toast, silence growing around us soft and easy as tree boughs in summer whilst my body vibrates with the energy between them. Nothing more is said, but that’s okay. I like their silence.
After we’re finished, I thank them and escort Commelina back to the pond. She swipes her head against my hand before she goes and warmth steals through me like a sneak thief. So we’re friends at last, she and I.
Everything is as it should be.
There were more feathers by the evening, a small thicket of them between my breasts neatly divided by a line of bright red streaked down the middle, reaching all the way down to my belly button. I stood naked before the mirror for a long time, stroking them. I won’t pluck these ones. I’m done lying to myself. I’ve missed them. Missed being myself. Perhaps I’ll tell mama and papa about them at last.
Perhaps as soon as tomorrow.
© Ren Warom 2014