Monday, October 15, 2012

Fiction: CURTAINS: After her death, a girl tells of her "human white" sister & her "human black" brother-in-law

She's younger than the narrator, but similar.

by Sarah Sarai
published in the inaugural issue of
Belletrist Coterie, 2012

      So you might have heard in 1962 Fidel Castro let Nikita Khrushchev store missiles on the island of Cuba which isn't all that far from the U.S.A. which I am in more of a position to know than you are. Other stuff happened that year like John Glenn going around one of the planets, earth or moon or sun, I've never been sure which even though, again, I can see more than you. And those people back when James Meredith decided to enroll at the University of Mississippi, I remember their faces, like dried apple cores going moldy, from t.v. I was twelve. I'm thirteen now because I'll always be thirteen because I died in 1963 because my bike flipped because I barreled down the hill, loop-de-looped and landed in a ditch. The hot asphalt guy helping the ditch-digging guy didn't hear the steamroller guy shout. The hot asphalt guy isn't up here yet and I've done everything I can for him (which isn't much of anything but it is something) because he was really sorry about the whole thing.
      I could tell you what it's like up here when you Downed start talking to us Upped, asking favors, trying to bargain, and like that, but if I tell too much I might get in trouble, like I did in sixth grade when I told the boys about menstruation (I have two older sisters, man). My folks didn't care but the girls in my class were euuuuy and tsk tsk-y. My ma got her girls using tampons right away, is what I shared is what older sister #1 told me.
     The hot asphalt guy's name is Brian. He's Catholic. The Name is good about respecting everyone's stupidity, Catholics', Protestants', Jews', Muslims', Hindus' and so on. As long as you don't do anything that is dried-apple-core ugly you don't have to worry. I don't know where the dried apple cores are in finality. Of personal experience where you are, I only knew not-perfect family stuff like Ma slamming doors because of something Pop did or Pop getting red as wrapping paper when she ran at him with a kitchen knife. Family stuff like what I'm gonna tell you.
      So yeah I Upped, which is what all of death is for most everyone, a rising, and it has nothing to do with what you are told it has to do with because like I said we have Muslims and Hindus and Samoans here. You get invisible and somehow, there you are, in a pneumatic tube like they used at a department store downtown L.A. when Mom paid for my clothes. There is place for the Downed, as I said before, the moldy apple cores. I'm not supposed to see it, but I might, sometime. I know how to get around rules, some.
      I want to talk about my brother-in-law who I didn't get to know much but it was a big thing him and my sister marrying. My sister had run away to Chicago from L.A. She was eighteen. In my family her leaving was a scandal because although she told my parents before she left, and got a friend to drive her to Greyhound, it was still considered rash and rude. My other sister was valedictorian in high school and went to a fancy college. You can figure out why my sister who ran away, ran away. The valedictorian sister is twelve years older than me and still with you all, and so is the running-away sister, who is eight years older than me.
      One of the last things
I heard before I Upped was from my best friend Allison's grandma who was cooking a soup with ox bones and potatoes and an apple thrown in to sweeten up the kale and collards. "Stop by tomorrow and we'll fatten you up," she said. I don't have a body now so too late for that, but it wasn't like I was skinny.
      My brother-in-law was a black man. I suppose you don't need me to tell you he was a man because that is what brothers-in-law are, like brothers are though I never had one. Sisters are women which both of mine had become when I was down there even though I was a girl which was kind of weird, like being an only child, only not being an only child. Well it wasn't that weird but I said "kind of weird" and it was kind of weird.
      We started out in New York State so I know what storms are like. I have to mention this because I Upped in the San Fernando Valley where we moved to when we moved to California. The sky would suck itself in over the Long Island Sound when we lived in New York State and close its eyes and wait like the biggest brat on the block trying to fake you about while she hides and hopes you walk by so she can whop you with something like dried pussy willow branch or water from the hose or just scare you by jumping out.
      That's what the house in Encino felt like when my sister called my parents to tell them about her husband, which he was, because she'd married him in Chicago after she ran away to that city and got a job at the phone company—where they allowed her to wear only three pieces of jewelry at a time because, I don't know why. We got people coming up here with twenty pieces of jewelry all over them so I guess the phone company changed its policy but three-pieces-a-jewelry was standard when my sister married a black man.
      So there is the white of envelopes. I liked envelopes because birthday cards with five dollar bills came in envelopes and at your party you might get a card that had paper dolls as part of it all in a white envelope, plus clouds, when not being sucked into the sky, are white but my sister was not that kind of white. She was human white.
      And there is a particular cave, the Nancy Jane Tavern in New Mexico, we stopped at when we drove from New York State to California. For a minute the tour guide let us see how dark dark can be and it is black dark black. Also the gown my sister who was a valedictorian at her high school wore was black and it was not any other color. You haven't met Sunday our cat who died when he was twenty-one years old (yeah, I'm talking about you, kitty) but she was black and I know you have seen cats who are black so you know what black looks like and my sister's husband was not that kind of black. He was human black.
      He had more more voice than my pop did. I remember that. I remember thinking, he has more voice than Pop or Ma and trying to figure out why and not knowing. Pa once said opera singer ladies had to be fat to have those voices and that he liked those voices but my brother-in-law wasn't fat and didn't have an opera lady voice. I told my oldest sister the valedictorian about him having more voice when she called from the East Coast where she was going to college. She told me to shut up so I did.
      Oh, I was telling you about after the phone call from my sister who married a black man. Well, the feeling in our house was like outdoors before a storm, kind of gloomy and tense but exciting. I didn't know what was happening. Pop was a good regular pop who liked to drink liquors he kept under the sink next to the Ajax. He had good buddies who also drank liquors. I remember going to their houses. Their liquors were on shelves and one of them had his liquors in a cabinet with glass doors. So fancy.
      My sister who was human white and her husband who was human black moved to L.A. because it was easier to be human white and black married in Los Angeles than in Chicago. They lived on Vermont Avenue while I was still hanging out on earth and that is not in the San Fernando Valley because if you are black even human black you did not live in the San Fernando Valley. My parents didn't live there because they were human white but because that's where they found the tract house. They did their best.
      Ma was the religious one and I went to a Protestant Sunday School though I mainly remember that it was either me or the blonde girl next to me threw up one time. Pop was Jewish and human white.
      I don't know if I liked my brother-in-law. I met him only twice. He's still with you so I'll figure it out later when he Ups. The time on a watch or a clock doesn't mean a thing but I still have to wait to meet my nieces and nephews, my sister's and his kids who I loved even before they were born and they've never met me. It is good to have something to look forward to. When I was alive I wanted to meet Cleopatra and Emma Goldman. You'd think I had, now that we're three Upped females, but so far, no go.
      My brother-in-law got a job at what he did. The car repair shop was in the San Fernando Valley but they lived on Vermont Avenue so it was a good thing he worked at a car repair place so he could fix his car if it needed it because he drove a lot back and forth a lot.
      I loved the car radio and the music from it which my sister played before she moved to Chicago. She wouldn't let me touch the knob. She liked Elvis before she moved to Chicago and said she wondered how she could let Elvis know she really understood him and would be really nice to him and let him talk to her about anything, and that she understood so much that the other kind of girls could never understand because they were easy with life and happy-pretty. I pretended to look like Cleopatra with my Halloween wig and walking the Egyptian way. Maybe I liked Emma Goldman because I looked more like her than I looked like Cleopatra although my sister who got married didn't look like Emma or Cleopatra and she didn't look like one of the happy-pretty girls.
      I think my grandma pulled up beets in Sweden. I think my other grandma pulled up beets in Russia.
      My brother-in-law had been in the Army and gone to France and Germany when the U.S. was not at war but he started in Virginia where his pop had a farm. He was like my sister because his brothers and sisters, of which he had more than we did, were honor roll types and teachers. He ran away to the Army. I can tell you for a fact that up here like souls find like souls and that is what I see all the time, although I haven't seen Emma Goldman, but I have all the time in the world and believe you me that's a lot of time. She might be one of the people who created the world up here with her nice ideas about the “disorder of things” and how it's all “illumined by the spiritual light of Anarchism.” This world is nicer than the one you live in except I still haven't met my nieces and nephews who I love.
      I'm not wishing they leave the earth. I can wait.
      So okay, back to the afternoon we met my brother-in-law. Pop had drunk a bottle of liquors but it wasn't full when he started, so he really drank a glass or two and he added ice to his drink. Oh. He and Ma fed us this line about how we were all equal, everyone on Earth was equal and we were all children-of-The Name. It's true and all, but pretty obvious, like telling a kid, Don't barrel down a hill on your bike, which they never said.
        I might or might not have to end this story. Who cares about the phone call from my sister who ran away (though she didn't run away)? Sunday the cat cares. Yay, Sunday! Let's move on to when we met my brother-in-law. They came to visit us and I hadn't seen my sister the eighteen-year-old runaway for a year so she wasn't eighteen any more. My oldest sister was on the East Coast, as I have mentioned.
      My pop pulled the curtains closed and said something about the neighbors. He looked scared like I think he looked when he was my age, but Un-Upped, in New York City and the Irish kids were coming to beat him up. Ma's ma didn't want her to marry a person who was a yid but when she found out he liked liquors she approved and he could be really funny, besides.
       I'm a little pink in the cheeks about Pa pulling the curtain when my brother-in-law who was human black came to visit. Embarrassed is what I mean as you already know. But Pa's face never got like a dried apple-core-face and there is more to the story. When my brother-in-law was in the living room for a few minutes, drinking liquors with my pa, my pa pulled open the curtain, all the way back. My sister was in the kitchen talking lots and lots with my ma so neither of them saw the sun shining through the glass or the neighbor across the street mowing his lawn or his kid Herbie throwing a Frisbee to his puppy.
        I see planets and stars and real deal wonders you dream of, or see photographs and t.v. shows of, and things you can't even imagine, but I sorta miss seeing things like the sun shining through the window and my pa and my brother-in-law laughing about something or other and me pretending to be a big pitcher of lemonade with little ears shaped like handles which I was better at than I was at bicycling. Pretending. Listening to your pa and your brother-in-law who is human black is okay. Watching people live and get better was almost as good as living up here, though this place will be more fun when I can meet my nieces and nephews. I already love them.
by Sarah Sarai, published in the inaugural issue of Belletrist Coterie, 2012. All rights reserved. 

1 comment:

  1. They were human white but because that's where they found the tract house. They did their best.
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