I’m outside both times the HVAC man comes to my neighbor’s
and luckily I’m a silent crier. I guess that’s a perk of being born
from a fifty-hour labor: I learned how to linger in a warmer place.
My version of self-soothing is a steam burn. I let my memories
of better times overheat, overexposing my love with her face
turned to the sky, my mechanical hands plucking lily of the valley
from tiny green ladders, my father sitting with his hands folded grateful
on my porch after three years of running. I shellack them all with UV gel
polish and try not to hit the cuticles. The HVAC man gives my neighbor
the runaround, the why-didn’t-you-notice-this, the it-wouldn’t-have-been-
so-bad-if-you-called-us-a-year-ago, all while my cheeks leak siblinghood,
the neatly bound recollection of every avian-bone embrace I ever gave
my sister. If only the rest of my past could be so neat, so easily categorized as
its brightest moments, printed slick technicolor like my yearbooks. I wouldn’t
have to rummage around in my head, grabbing at pools of tar, or worry
about how much Dawn it will take to clean my hands when I’m done.
I wouldn’t have to test water with my tongue for pitch when I take a drink,
fearing a leak of dread from my cranium to my sinuses to the back of my
parched throat. The HVAC man says that the broken part that needs replacing
is as old as I am. He marvels at how a machine with such decrepit parts,
clogged with leaves and gunk and the slow march of suburban time, could
have possibly made it this far. I do him one better: I think about the sun, and
I think about my sister, and I think about how no one in my graduating high
school class has been the first to die yet. I think about how it won’t be me.