Camille pulled the hair tie off my upper arm. Things were getting blurry but I could see the round impression left; like a worm wrapped tightly around the tricep, left to remind me: danger. Danger is here. Unintentionally, I moaned when she pulled it down. Reprieve from the strangle and I had not been able to move my arm on its own in hours.
“How the fuck…”
“It’s yours, Lilian,” I interrupted lunging, using my left hand to propel me.
I remember spitting on her then. I remember her reflexively smacking my chin without letting go of my wrist where the band had temporarily landed. I remember telling Laura that she put the band on my arm, pointing at her and moving to the other side of the bed once she let go. And even in my growing infirmary, I read faces and Laura gave Camille a mirthless, pleading look but she also eyed me with some sympathy. Almost like she believed me. That anything was possible when you witness it. Then I was being dragged up. Cackling.
“My arm almost fell off,” I say to the mirror.
“We should take her to the hospital. Forget about the flight.”
“I don’t have health insurance!”
Lucid in moments, more fleeting now, but still lucid enough to reason. Any sane person would have called 911 but I said.
“I’ll refuse and they will have to leave.”
“You’re a danger to yourself, Ava.”
“You’re a danger to everyone, Camille.”
It must have been her name that did it. Since I didn’t call her by her real name, Lilian, but her here name Camille and lucid. I possessed moments of true ferocity. They’d seen me worse, or at least heard me on the phone worse. They’d seen me crawl my way out of psychosis and depression. Seen me eat only baby food for a week in bed. Seen me talk to the walls before. Seen me perch on illness, make mountain of it, climb. Here I am, a trekker. They each had me by my upper arms; Camille on my right now, away from the sore. And when I did look over, I could see Laura staring at the imprint curiously. Yes, we should all be so curious now. Then Camille in front of me at the bottom. I felt no one near me. She was wearing a cloak.
“Yes, I told you it was cold.”
Behind Camille, two more cloaks, yet was I being ignored? Did I crawl down the stairs? Did anyone hand me a handkerchief to wipe my chin? Had I showered the bile off? It is amazing what the body will tolerate. Amazing how pliable one becomes in illness; a marionnette being taken and held, bounced, and forced to walk, wake up, swallow. What it remembers: the mechanics of chewing, swallowing, bending knees, gripping hand railing. Memory. Sometimes memory goes first and that is a blessing. Would be better to rot in blank space in a rocking chair in the corner watching the wayward girl make faces from the branch. But memory works to help you hold the handle of your rolly bag being led by three cloaks until one forgets and you drop the suitcase in the driveway. You are now staggering in mid air. You are now in a net in mid air. You are now in the snow.
“I should have a cloak too.”
When I sneezed, a little blood came out but no one noticed.
Deathly silent in the Lyft. Some part of my body understood I needed to be quiet, to be good, to get through the gate to get home so they wouldn’t call the police, to get back to my living room floor and to get back to my sparkle-drop ceiling where I can lie languid, unbothered. Let the hoods come when they come.
“I’m glad I slapped, Camille,” is all I say the whole ride.
My head is cooling on the window, now aflame. Before, when the breeze hit my body I chilled like I had been dipped in one of those cooling pools at the spa: suddenly. Now, I was sweating. I had demanded I wear my sweatshirt the whole ride and my entire forehead was perspiring. I could see the driver in the rearview glance at me every so often but mostly I watched the five women galloping alongside the car with me, on white horse. Don’t tell them.
“Who?” I say out loud.
Well, I said two things the whole ride. I leave a streak on the window when I peel myself away at arrival. Laura didn’t say anything. She didn’t say anything when I said I was glad I slapped Camille and she didn’t say anything when I called her Lilian and a vituperative cunt. She didn’t try to take my sweatshirt off. It is cold on the plane,I overheard her say to Mac on the way out. She didn’t say anything else to me most of the time and I was in better company now. She just took my hand and walked me up the curb and watched me with my roller bag, giggling, sweating profusely, saying ok a lot as if I was agreeing to some internal proposal.
“Don’t tell them you have the flu,” she nudged me.
“Girl, I don’t have the fucking flu.”“Pull your hood off.”
“But everyone else is wearing a cloak.”
She sighed and did it for me and that look, the look I saw back at the house, that terror-struck freeze, mouth slightly ajar, eyes mollifying, almost submitting to the horror on instinct began to come over her again. I was pinching her wrist with my nails tightly as I grabbed them and it was hard, getting harder to stand there without falling over so for one moment part of it was for balance and the other was trying to parse my lips apart; so dry they had stuck together to say something in seeth. Her lips drew back to her teeth as a piece of my bottom lip was ripped carelessly, now hanging from my top as I spoke. I could feel it, unbothered.
“Don’t fucking touch me again without asking me, you wench hot bitch.”
When I laughed, I remember everyone turning to look and from the side, I could see her, still stuck in a moment already passed like a statue.