After my thirty-seventh birthday, I begin to wander the house at night with the lights off, and wonder if this is how it will feel to become like the other women in my family.
10 steps down. A carpeted landing. 3 steps down. Ground floor.
A formula my will body remember
long after I forget how to count.
I prepare myself, feel my way through the evening shroud of moon-shaded greys, imagine futures of nighttime navigations through bland rooms of eggshell paint windowed with high-gloss squares of family photos. This particular affliction manifests itself at different ages, and I feel like it has not reached me yet. But perhaps denial is one of the symptoms.
Kitchen tile steals heat from the bottoms of my feet as I drift between countertops,
my hips remembering those corners
that led to past bruises.
My aunt has trouble seeing cracks in things that are meant to be solid. She catches her toes along uneven lines in cement sidewalks, ignores the space where ants crawl beneath the back door, and believes the magician when he says “this is an ordinary box”. She never saw the crumbling foundation that gave way beneath her. The idyllic bedrock of her marriage-with-two-kids was solid one minute, then gone the next.
The sink is a steady gleam watched over by a tap with a streetlamp neck.
Even in this dim hour, steel finds a way to capture the moon
and send it back.
Every day, my sister’s field of view suffers from a smothering of light. Her waking hours are buried under the landslide of demands set off by her daughter’s screams and her son’s tantrums. Sometimes she calls me, her breath in short sharp gasps, thinking I won’t hear the tears on her cheeks.
Fingertips prod darkness, bump into the kettle’s curves.
The sound of water fills space with a soft slide of hollow notes telling me when to stop
before it overflows.
My mother never saw me. Just the marks on the wall, and the messes I made, the after effects of my existence.
Open the drawer to the right. Tap the even row of tin lids. Chamomile. Lemongrass. Mint.
Listen. That’s the sound of ones becoming close to empty again.
Yet, despite my age, most of the women in my family brag that they can see my future, that my lack of desire for the brassy ring of wedding bells or the belly swell of a child is just a dormant phase that will awaken soon. My grandmother’s eyes are twin worlds of cloud and milky skies, yet she sees me the clearest. She only says, “Never mind. Tell them to go tip off.” Tip off the edge of the world, is what she means. “Maybe we’ll all discover something new.”
At dawn, colors return from beneath the dark horizon line, sneaking between the slats in the blinds, pushing back nighttime borders, a showing of new possibilities
not the old ones that wither in the corners
trying to be reborn.
Jenny Wong is a writer, traveler, and occasional business analyst. Lately, her writings have been more about indoor things, but she still dreams about evening wanderings around Tokyo alleys, Singapore hawker centres, and Parisian cemeteries. Recent publications include The Night Heron Barks, The Adriatic, and The Shore Poetry. She resides in the foothills of Alberta, Canada and tweets @jenwithwords.