by David Antrobus Photo credit: David Antrobus
Hallowed be her name.
When she first came here—the skin beneath her hazel eyes smeared as if an artist had been learning charcoal, the eyes themselves almost pitiless—we called her Trashy, soon shortened to Trash. We meant nothing bad by that. “Trash panda” was a nickname for raccoons, and that was all we meant. But Trash—Raylene—heard only bad. Today we’d call it slut-shaming, only we weren’t slut-shaming anyone. Yet she felt slut-shamed.
I still remember her room, the three dreamcatchers: the obvious one over her bed; another in the exact centre of her small window; and the other hanging from the doorframe, like mistletoe meant to stop dreamers dreaming bad things instead of lovers kissing good ones.
She never knew it, and even I only figured it out far too late, but I was her sister.
Trash was skinny and chill as a frappuccino straw. She liked to eat but she often couldn’t. Her moods precluded co-option of solid fuel. In fact, that’s even how she would have said it back then: “My moods preclude co-option of solid fuel.” Her speech was unique. Like she began her thought in English, heard it in Venusian, then translated it hastily back into English.
I secretly adored her eyes. Not the shadows that made me think of future ghosts scribed in hindsight, but the marketplace of colour shimmering in those irises, even when her will held them steady as edicts. Her face was its own proclamation, the golden emerald eyes an enactment within.
You might have actually loved her too.
I’m making it sound like she died. Far as I know, she never died. She simply left. Left us. Joined someone else, far as anyone knew. On cold nights, I try to warm myself with the thought of Trash, surviving, articulating her offbeat vision to some spellbound soul.
But yes. Trash never laughed, though she found some kind of humour in everything. She told me how often this bothered people around her. Related this story. She was small, maybe seven or eight, and her mom won some local contest and they went on a trip to London, a hardscrabble momma from the American South and her no-account daughter, first time either of them left America. Some point, she was sitting on a barstool in some dark pub that smelled like unfiltered tobacco smoke and cheese and onion crisps (she remembers her first taste of English chips even while she’s forgotten the endless flight itself or Heathrow or the narrow streets or the tiny houses) and her mom was chatting with three men who seemed smitten by her voice, by her look, by her difference. And Trash, quiet, alone, stared ahead at the array of bottles, all that bright-hued glass, and thought about why adults seemed so sure they were in control when most times the opposite was true. And she nearly smiled, but she didn’t want to give reality the pleasure of agreeing with it, so she decided to remain stoic. A girl of stone, perhaps more limestone than granite. Emotion was real to her, but expressing emotion felt like a luxury. Seemed one of the men noticed her reserve and came over to her, and she never forgot this, but he touched her upper arm where it was also her shoulder, not sexual or creepy in any way, and he looked in her eyes—his were the palest blue and you wouldn’t gainsay someone who called them grey—and said, quietly yet not secretively, “Cheer up, darlin’, it might never happen.” Then he went and rejoined the other men serenading her mother, and Trash tried not to think about it but failed. It might never happen. What might never happen? It was too open-ended and infinite. Too soaked in plausible. It made her mind feel like all life shrank to a point, a point at which it must decide on cheering up or cheering down. Like it was a sinkhole hoping to warn the neighbors. Like a graffitied road in an abandoned mining town.
How do I know all this? It’s like we switched places, traded pasts. It’s like Trash stayed and I left. Maybe I’m mistelling it or misrecalling it.
One thing she knew that no one knew is this: everything aspires. A moth seeking light and dancing ungainly around it, tracing some newfound poetry in the expectant night. A two-lane road between cedars. Drunken songs after hours. A comet. Fresh-hatched turtles clambering over sand. The winning goal in a World Cup final. Migrants. Warmed cognac. The sun melting on the blazing rim of this world. Midnight mass. Laughter.
Though I don’t know this, I know this: Trash is there still. On that blazing rim. Sipping Rémy Martin. Faking laughter at the exertion of turtles. Loving angrily yet secretly. Living within the penumbra of borders. Trying not to notice the chainlink. Trying not to cry.
About the author:
David Antrobus is a freelance writer and editor whose origins lie in northern England and who currently lives in the Vancouver area. As if in tribute to the abused and neglected children he spent two decades working with, his writing in all its forms bristles with outrage, sorrow, dark humour, and resilience.
As a writer, David is far from prolific, which he justifies by assuring anyone who cares to listen that he much prefers quality over quantity. The fact that he has one perfect daughter lends support to this approach. However, his steady intake of wine, caffeine, and deeply questionable movies just as easily undermines it.
As an editor, he created Be Write There in 2009, a one-stop service that provides proofreading, copyediting, substantive editing, developmental editing, and manuscript evaluation.
He has published two books, both nonfiction, and has written numerous dark yet lyrical tales scattered among various anthologies and websites.
© Copyright by David Antrobus at The Migrant Type. All rights reserved.