Issue 91, Spring 1984
The night Kris was born, two-hundred and fifty miles from my house, I was fourteen, and I had the experience of the white light during sleep. An informal student of Eastern religions and philosophies, I knew it for what it was—the all-encompassing, infinite fabric of the Absolute. I felt I was not of the Earth; there was no time. Coming out of it was like being pulled out of Eternity—Eternity, like a cool ray that blew on. It shocked me, coming back, confined to the body, but I had seen the ultimate. Forever was not so far away. I lay in my bed, sweating, the memory of it fading. I looked out the window at the Southern night. It, and from then on, everything else, looked different to me than before.
“She was born with teeth. I’m calling her Monkey. I half expected her to have a tail, she was in me so long. I swear she didn’t want to come out.” Her mother, drenched and faded, intense with her black hair stringing wet, held the little girl to her breast. “It’s like she was pulled right out of eternity or somewhere. There’s such a silence on her.”
Her father had been on the front porch for thirteen hours, waiting for the child to be born, noticing the smallest movements of day and then night, the currents from the porch. As he came into the house he thought of her conception in the Gulfport motel room, cold wet bathing suits and sand, where the drinking water tasted so bad. He stood above their bed now, looking at his baby. She had dimples above her little hips and the attic fan blew hot air and cicada. “We ain’t calling this one Monkey. I’ve been thinking out there. We’ll call her Kristine.”
And later, when Kris was still little, when she used to squat down, playing in the grass, her father would put a huge hand on her back, supporting her, feeling her life underneath. He claims to have seen her future on the back of his hand, outlined in the blue veins, pictures of what was to be —little colors of time. I must have been in there somewhere, or everywhere, in between a small muscle or bone, holding on tight, resisting the flow of blood running downhill to the wrist. It was years later that Kris’s blood filled up with alcohol, churning and twisting her life into chaos. I saw pictures of that young time, backyard shots of the two of them. He was huge, she stood up to his knee and his wild hair was fully blown, either by the wind or his frame of mind, 1 couldn’t tell which.
Beautiful, outspoken Kris —she inherited her family’s knack for making impressions. When she was eleven her older brother was killed when he fell to earth from fifty feet of tree, floating as he fell with his arms stretched wide and his Superman towel flapping uselessly behind him. He hit with a heavy thud and still today people twist their ankles or their knees or their minds when they step into that impression he left in the ground. Her father worked in a bakery. His job was to take the hot loaves from the oven, on racks, spin around and place them on cooling tables behind him. He did that for seventeen years. After he retired some men noticed a smooth indentation in the concrete bakery floor where William Parker had pivoted his shoe over the years. In concrete.
Kris’s mother had been hit by a shovel in a riot involving the sexual consent laws of the state of Mississippi. She wore it pretty well though, and it was Kris who inherited the side of her mother’s shovel mouth, a nervous twitch that twisted the side of her mouth when she was tense, or drunk, or both, or when she was excruciatingly honest. She talked through those wet, red lips like Mae West and Popeye the Sailor Man and her eyebrows would raise for extra emphasis.
When I turned twenty-four, still having the white light once in awhile, in fact, regularly on every August nineteenth, a certain girl’s birthday who lived two-hundred and fifty miles away, and who on my twenty-fourth birthday was playing at recess in the concrete flat of a Mississippi schoolyard. She used to wear little dresses, some marked in back in the shape of a huge palm. She used to leave her panties at home in her cardboard underwear bo3( and sit quietly on the cool, smooth cement steps, watching the other kids play while she became aware of her sexuality, sitting there, soft, like a little bird. She left two moon-shaped wet spots there, indelibly. Those two spots used to shine at night for those who had eyes to see them, folks driving by the schoolyard on hot summer nights, their Eskimo pies melting, unaware of the steps’ dayglow memoriam. It’s a funny thing—I noticed those marks the time of my twenty-fourth birthday in the morning looking in the mirror. I was frightened to notice the change in my face. They were imprinted on my forehead and I first took them to be from a rough night’s sleep that often creased my face with sheet marks. But last night’s dream had seeped out to the very surface of my brain and even further. I dreamt I was chasing a young woman in a brown, weedy autumn field. She was riding a horse and kept looking back at me, laughing out the side of her mouth. I was wearing a grey military uniform with brightly striped pants, each coat button shining sharp in the sun. I followed her, stumbling over a dirt bank. Two red-faced soldiers fired musket shots into my forehead. I saw the smoke puffs as I Hew back down the hill. And now I wore the marks on my face—something from her world that added to my already prematurely lined face.
I dreamt of her as my mother, she washed me in the kitchen sink. I dreamt of her as my father. I remember his thick fingers, scratchy face, and cigarette breath. She was my sister and we held each other as tiny children, dirt-faced and barefoot at the shore of a great sea. Often she was my lover. Sometimes I saw her with other boys who aroused and caressed her into swoons. She was half-naked on short, green grass soft to her pa\e backside, the two softnesses squirming together while they leaned over her sensitive body. Her shirt was unbuttoned to just above her navel, her pants off to the side in a heap. Her young stomach moved in a sideways rhythm, reflecting pink sunlight, flat and warm. Her adolescent breasts remained under her long-tailed shirt, creating small upward wrinkles. Her eyes were closed and she held her arms above her head in a circle. I saw her like this often and it would end with me watching from high in the air at a great distance.