This is the Dimension
Julie Jordan Avritt
On a narrow stretch of scabbed earth, clear-cut by the machinery of industry-over-ecology, travelers on a meandering highway bear witness to the marriage of myth and capitalism. Three wooden crosses stand where no trees stand, proclaiming, “Christ died for you,” “Blood redemption secured.” The story of Abraham and Isaac is the story of every childhood; the betrayal of the parent to the child as to the betrayal of the parent by the grandparent. No gods in this country can be met without sacrifice.
This is where I was born the first time.
Here is her ritual: She sits naked on a wooden stool before a full-length mirror. She is pale cream with flecks of vanilla and her hair is kudzu vines as she combs and curls it. Her eyes are the green of ghosts as she lines them in the kohl of the age. She hums to the radio, George Jones or Dwight Yoakum, and imagines herself as someone wanted. In her head are magazine pictures of Elizabeth Taylor. She darkens a mole above her lip and a cat stretches in the window where the neighbors can almost see. The sheen of her mouth reflects the irises of the eyes of those who wish to watch her.
I sit on the bed in a lavender jumper and imagine I am her, beautiful and cruel and meant for a wreckage I intuit but do not understand. I am a doll to her, whom she dresses and undresses and forgets. All her rage is mine alone.
We share an ache for the arrival of a man whose eyes are the brown of seeds. He is reason to her unreasoning; she is flint against the stone of him. I walk the tight-wire which is roped from her to him. Together we are a collision of molecule, cell, need. Our receptors have all been broken by history.
“No one is such a liar as the indignant man,” is the invisible sampler nailed above the church house door. The penitent are plagued with guilt and hubris, unknowing serpents, circular and feasting upon their own bodies. They dance and they do not dance, in turns, and their music is the sound of panthers in the swamplands.
Her hands grip the wheel that guides a cherry red chariot. She flies to leave behind and in her exhaust is amplified anguish. When she is pulled over, she commands me to play sick. I curl smaller than small in the unleather seat and the blues and whites of cruiser lights set the mood in the chrome of the dash. In this theater, I get to make the sounds my mouth would make any day if she let it. In the scene, I play her role and she plays the part she rehearses in lipsticks.
Later, there is a deer-shaped crush in the hood of my father’s car. I make a funeral to the deer and she is the wailing keen of its mourner, though her cries are not for its wildness or innocence. She beats my father’s chest with the great club of her dissatisfaction, and he begins to close to us, steadily, until there is no more closing, only turning. When he leaves us, I hold another kind of funeral as she prepares again and again to die.
She moves in and out of hospitals and psychiatric facilities and I naively believe they will cure her, as if anyone had the power. She is fists flying and the assault of the sadistic instrument of words. When I leave her, it is at her request; she demands me to go. For years I do not see her and when finally I return, I am full grown and she has forgotten all of her lines. She rises in the realm of disembodied spirits; her arms and neck are prickled with the chill of men who once lived in flesh bodies, but now dwell only in coldness. She is only ever half in her body and at night I fly with her into the darkest past.
I wake in the dark at the sound of thunder and I know my father is dead. He is miles away but where his body lies the sky is also crashing; rain pours there as here. I know there will be no more memories of him and yet all the ones I have are fleeing like his intelligence has fled the matter that once possessed him. I cry for years until I know my tears are for a nothingness which cannot be made.
The color is not-quite-black and I read everything against it. Your energy is a field I can fathom, its jolts and frequencies. After an eon of too much wanting, I have landed here, where the imagination is the precursor and consequence of reality. What I imagined then has come and gone; this is the dimension I write in.
Julie Jordan Avritt is a freelance writer living in the American South. She is descended from a long line of storytellers, but remains the only one among them who bothered to write things down. Past and forthcoming work can be found in S/tick and in a long ago Reader's Write section of The Sun Magazine.