I was seven years old, at the neighbor's house, and I surreptitiously broke off a little piece of styrofoam packaging and chewed on it.
"You shouldn't eat styrofoam," the Neighbor Dad said, his face full of concern. "It's just like glass, it will cut you up inside."
I nodded, full of interested understanding, pretending I hadn't eaten it, pretending he hadn't seen me, pretending he was just introducing a topic of general interest. In my experience if you pretended blank incomprehension long enough, and just refused to inhabit the same world as other people, the other people eventually became nonplussed and went away.
It worked now, too. He went away. I didn't really think the styrofoam was going to cut me up inside. But I didn't know. It might. I've waited, ever since, for that styrofoam to begin cutting. It will serve me right, if it does.
I remember it still, so it must have frightened me pretty badly. His words have sat in my mind ever since, like that maleficent styrofoam, cutting me up inside. Other words sit there in the same way, chance remarks, parting shots from bitter lovers, bits of magazine advice.
My own survival came to weigh on me, after a while. The end of my life and my love had been prophesied so often, so many dooms had been invoked over my blond-white head, that living on -- even thriving, in my queer, viral, parasitic way -- came to seem perverse.
Yet here I am. Apparently indestructible.
Still turned at this odd angle to the world, half in, half out. I open my hands to catch the light, I mold the clay of the hills, shear the coastlines; I take a deep breath and blow, and all the clouds rush away in turbulent swirls. What am I making, here? Why did I shape those trees, this street, that glimpsed face?
I am old, old, old; old with making, old with dreaming. I don't belong here, but nothing has the strength, it seems, to heave me out.
I kiss you gently as you sleep, night after night. I used to long for a real life. Now I know that I was never meant for that. I was meant for something else.
Snowflakes come out of the dark sky, like confused moths, brushing me with their wings. Winter, Summer, Winter, Summer. I can't keep track. The zodiac spins slowly around me; Orion trades with Lyra, Lyra with Auriga. Moments ago it was summer; now it seems to be the dead of winter.
I cradle your head in my hands, working the little muscles of the neck. All that head to hold. Poor little hybrid: head as heavy as a pony's, and just that little monkey neck to hold it all up.
In the middle of the dream your brown eyes open and look straight into mine, our faces upside-down to each other. Your eyes fill with confusion. I'm not what you expected to see. I don't whisper, "sleep, dear. Sleep." I turn your head, softening the scalenes, letting my fingers flow in among them. My other hand works your scalp. Soon enough, soon enough, you'll have the story put together again, about who you are, and who I am, and what light that is, falling through the high window.