When the possum fell down through a hole in the attic, it landed in the wall between the kitchen and the den. I picked up the phone book to find someone to call, to rescue the body, wrap a long cast, and cage it in until the bones re-seamed and the body became new again. A salty voice answered, We can rescue it after it dies.
I asked, How long?
The voice hummed, the noise of a conch shell from the wrong coast.
The possum scratched inside the wall for five days. A voiceless ghost. Still scratching, scratching when pale, fat worms sprouted up through the living room carpet. Mom sucked them up one by one through the mouth of the vacuum hose. What are you what are you what are you, she said as they thumped into the belly of the vacuum.
This year is my longer-out-than-in year. Longer alive without a dad than with one. Longer alive knowing that death is real than not knowing, not having seen. Psychologists say that when a child witnesses a parent’s death, they are frozen in that age for the rest of their lives.
Some people call death a shell, cold and clean. Some people say it’s a long slow ache. In my body, it’s a kind of dredging. Kicking up the sand from the middle of the ocean to build a new shoreline. The shoreline between my body and your body. The shoreline between
breath and stillness
girl and woman
sand and a kind of breaking
Some hours after we vacuumed the larvae and tore up the carpet and poured bleach on the cold concrete, the larvae who had stayed in the wall swayed into the shape of metal-black flies. The flies unfolded from some seam we couldn’t find between floor and wall. We filled the seam with caulk, but still. Their wings hissed past my arm hairs, my ears, my lips. Their wings, slapped into a blackish smear by the yellow nets of the fly swatters I bought in bulk. I handed one to my mother, one to my younger brother. I hung the rest, one by one, on our closet door knobs. Our closets that we could reach from the edges of our beds. I’d wake up in the night, the street light peeking through a crack in the curtains. I reached for the swatter, the metal loops of the wands pressed against my palms, my eyes tracking the insect bodies spilling through the dark air of my room.
Trapped inside the walls of that year, that age, my body, the possum scratches, ready to escape its own wound and the wings sprouting out of it. Wings that wake me in the night. Wings I wave away with both of my hands. Wings that return and return.
Wings born from the writhing, delivered through the invisible spines between floor and wall, sky and ground, our bodies and the blurred horizon.
Asha Dore‘s work has appeared in Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Hobart, Sweet, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family.