cw: mentions of incest.
When I was five, I saw a hole in the sky. Sitting behind one of my grandfather’s silos, it looked like someone took the back of a pencil and rubbed out a part of the sky. Where the sky was, a grey fuzz replaced it, exactly like the TV when it goes out of service. It was about the size of my hand. The sky is a large and all-encompassing being, so someone else must’ve seen it. Mom was baking in the kitchen while grandpa lay asleep behind me in his rocking chair. My shriek shook him awake, but he nodded back into sleep. I assumed it was my vivid imagination.
The school kids knew nothing of this occurrence and said they saw nothing. I was the only one who saw it, and that was okay. Now, sitting at the same place behind my grandfather’s silo, I was alone not minutes ago when my grandfather, who has been deceased for six years since I turned thirty-two, appeared behind me, rocking in his chair the same way he was that day. The scratched-out part appeared in the same place, in the same size. Within seconds it patched itself up, and my grandfather disappeared. Now, I knew it was real. This genuinely happened. But why? Why did I have to see that again, and why did my grandfather have to be there? Did time dilate and send us back for a second? Was it something I did? Sitting there and wishing for more, were those the steps I needed to take to make it happen again?
I sit down again and wish to leave this town, just like I did when I was twenty-five, just like I did earlier. I’ve lived here my whole life, and I can’t escape. Whenever I get a job out of town, it falls through. When I find love in the neighboring town, it ends. The only relationships that last are those I have here, and family are terrible. I start wishing, again and again, to leave. The thoughts I get in this place convince me I’m losing my mind. The circuitry thinking of this isolated small town can do that to you. Spending too much time with the same folks, talking about the same things, and living the same day on different dates; it can do that to you. I have nothing to live for here, nothing to look forward to. My world is crops, two red silos, my bedroom and the kitchen, accounting journals and early mornings. I have no friends besides my brother and his wife. I wake up and go to sleep without being told what is right or wrong. I do as I please.
Nothing happens, and I enter my grandfather’s house, which is now Cam’s. He sits in the kitchen feeding his daughter, who can sit on her own now. She is adorable but cries too much, and her mother has accustomed her to getting her way. That’s how you make an entitled human being.
The way things sit back into normalcy jars me every time. I don’t ask anyone if they’ve seen grandpa rocking on his chair outside or whether the sky broke a little out of fear of being called crazy or grief-stricken. It’s easy for them to call me crazy or out of touch. It’s a default that ends arguments with me. So, I’d rather not engage. Keeping silent, I work on the accounts in another room. I studied hard at the university, but no matter what I did to beat everyone in my class, the only place I could work was here.
Sipping on nutty coffee, watching the sunrise, the farm stretches far, swathed in carrots, wheat and cabbage. We are known for the sweetest carrots and the leafiest green cabbages in the state. Soon I’ll be able to buy a plot of land and move out. It’s the best I can do. It doesn’t matter how much Cam cajoles me into thinking I belong here with his family; I can’t help feeling like a fly on the wall. I’m too old to be dealing with fighting parents. The sound of their rage sinks into my bedroom. It’s all too much. I cuddle Tyler whenever they are too terrifying, yet I’m comfortable doing nothing to stop the bad.
I want to take Tyler with me. And Ashley when she can take care of herself. The last thing I need is a child. Cam will be against it; Tyler is his son, but I must save him from them. Tyler could’ve gone to college and become something - escaped this place, but he likes being needed here. As much as I want to protect him, he wants to protect me. He won’t go anywhere if I’m still here.
On mornings like this, it’s not uncommon for him to come up behind me, wrap his arms around my waist, breathe his warmth onto my neck and place kisses along the way. I push him away and peer through the window as my heart pounds. The house is sleepily silent. What happens if they see us? Tyler doesn’t care about being caught – love is above all else.
Sometimes I wonder if the glitches are why I can’t leave this place. Cam says I haven’t tried hard enough, or that I’m afraid of leaving the safety of the farm. He knows nothing. I’ve tried so many times. The way I’m blocked is supernatural. Universal.
I kiss Tyler, and my stomach knots: what am I doing? Why does it feel so natural when things weren’t like this yesterday? This must be the glitch. Before the glitch, there was no notion of him and I ever being in love. Tyler is my nephew, and that’s how it is, but here he is, holding me tight with the strength and will of a grown man. He looks like a man – hair prickling from his chin and cheeks, broad shoulders and the muscles and musk of a working man – he is a man. This is our first kiss. I know it, but I can’t help melting into this new world the glitch had made for me. This is not right, yet my mind has already convinced me; Tyler and I have been in love. I have memories of him inside me, planted in my mind and body. I know the sensation of being gazed at like I’m the only being in existence.
“You’re beautiful today.” Tyler moves from me and leans on the rails of the porch. I hand him the coffee without thought. He takes a sip and gives it back.
The urge to flirt with him comes tumbling out of me. “So only today?”
“Always,” he smiles and gazes over at the sky. The rose-golden morning releases a glow under his peach skin. His hazel eyes brighten like honey tea.
“Plans for the day?”
“The usual,” he replies and goes off to wake up the workers.
My eyes slip down his back, watching those firm muscles move beneath his cyan cotton shirt. He’s so immaculate. I hold myself back in utter shock! How can I be thinking such things about my nephew? Not so long ago, he cried in my arms about his mother, who spoke lowly of him. How can I allow myself to give into worldly pleasure just because I’m starved of a man’s touch? It’s been three years since Hunter. Hunter was a good man until he wasn’t. He cared little, and I did everything I could to be the right woman for him. Older men have only disappointed me; this includes my father and Cam, who looks at me with pity. Tyler isn’t just some young man. He is my brother’s son, my father’s grandson, so how can I expect him to treat me differently? Because he’s young? No! It’s only a matter of time before I start thinking this is okay. How long will it take for me to settle into reality this time?
I’ve had three glitches. The first one, I believe, made it impossible to leave. The second took my father. And the recent one made me love, shamelessly so.
At twenty-five, I sat under that same sky, asking what kind of woman I would be if my father didn’t exist. It was a short thought. One I brushed over in favor of the strong woman I’ve become. I wished to leave, and the sky opened up again. The glitch made it so that my father died when I was fifteen, and all those memories I had of him from fifteen to twenty-five disappeared slowly through time. I don’t know if the glitch ever works in my favor, but it works to make things different. His death being earlier has made me kinder to his memory. In those erased years, he was terrible, and his dementia eroded me. I didn’t try, like Cam, to remind him of who I was. I was happier not being the source of his ire. Dad always thought I was irresponsible and entitled, but he didn’t know what that meant. He was projecting.
Now the glitch wants to make my nephew love me. I’ve always loved and desired him and kept that in my heart. I know how wrong it is, but he loves me too now. Is that so bad? We are far from the real world, where this can be taken out of context and destroyed. Suddenly this place becomes a blessing, where no one cares unless it’s entertaining gossip. I am willing to stand for whatever judgement, so long as I have him by my side, loving me like no one else.
Tyler wakes me in his arms in my room. He makes me feel young and kisses me tenderly through the night. We talk about the future. He’s impatient about telling his parents while I’m terrified. The pending of this event turns my stomach and ties it up. I love Cam, but I don’t want him to think I’m a monster. To think of me as what I am. It's not that straightforward though. It's simply an age gap and blood. We are actually in love and understand each other. Tyler can make me smile, and my stomach hurt - how much he makes me laugh. Tyler lays with me until the first break of dawn and leaves before his parents can wake.
About a week or so, it happens again. This time, I don’t know what has changed. What is it? I’m still in love with Tyler, my father died when I was fifteen, and I still can’t leave. What's for sure is I do not know if it's my fears or inadequacies that make me the enforcer of my demise or the glitch. No, that’s how I’ve always been. Or maybe the glitch has made me believe I stand in my way? I lay sleepless for many nights, wondering what is true and what is false. What is missing? What is now in its place?
I serve a lovely lunch, something I hardly do. My brother and Portia are is pleased. Tyler smiles approvingly and broaches the subject. I chew at my tongue.
“Mom, dad. There is something we’ve been meaning to tell you.”
Cam swallows a spoonful and points at us both. “You two are canning each other.”
My mouth falls open. Tyler straightens his back. At that moment, he no longer looks like a young adult. He’s nearly twenty-seven, thirty. Portia’s wrinkles have doubled on her face. The lines formed every time she squinted at the sun have deepened and are permanent. My hands stretch out before me as she asks, “how long have you known?!”
“For the past ten years, I’ve been waiting for them to do the right thing.”
The skin of my hands is slightly pruney. Tugging at it, at it pulls up from my bones like gum. I gasp. Cam is old and resembles my father with deep-set eyes and big nose. From the side, his disappointment and indifference are unmistakable.
“Past ten years? It’s only been 2,” I state.
“And that makes it better?”
Portia wears confusion on her face, lost. How could I think I was smarter than my brother, who, when we were younger, always caught me sneaking out of the house? He can read lies from my face.
“Oh wait,” he chuckles tartly, “it’s only been official for two years, and the rest was just fooling around then, am I right?” There is a sharpness in his voice; a bitterness stabs at me.
Astounded, I ask what he means. “What do you mean?” Tyler asks me. And it’s happening again. I’ve had this same argument about father’s death – that he died when I was twenty-five and not fifteen. I can’t let them think I’m losing touch with reality, so I go with it. The honesty in Tyler’s eyes tells me this is a new reality. Ten years have passed, and I can forego going steady with my young nephew, but now I must accept it has gone this far.
“I didn’t mean for it to happen this way,” I start softly, ducking my head. Tyler squeezes my hand. Cam’s disgust bores into me. Shame lays heavy on me like a black coat.
“You took advantage of my son!”
“She didn’t take advantage of me, dad. I pursued her.”
“And that makes it okay?” Portia asks, her face fleeting through a myriad of emotions before settling on that of her husband’s. Anger.
“You are my sister Agnes, and you decide to prey on my son.”
I glare at him. “Then why didn’t you stop me?” I snap. Why wasn’t there someone to tell me no? To make me stop. All these years have gone by in complacency. Why didn’t anyone tell me so much time has gone by?
Cam’s mouth knits together; so much to say, yet nothing comes from him. “Dad, I know it seems wrong. I get that, but I love Agnes.”
“She’s your aunt. Do you lose that respect now that you’re fucking her?”
I almost laugh but keep my mouth pursed. Cam is so angry it’s hilarious. He looks like a tomato.
“I don’t like you speaking about her like that, dad.”
“Tyler!” Portia shouts incredulously.
“Mom, I want to move out with her. I will keep my duties here, but I won’t be staying here anymore, especially if you’re going to judge us.”
“So, you’re leaving and betraying us… both of you. After all I have done to help and defend you Agnes, you do this?”
“What have you done for me Cam?”
Cam snickers. "Every time you lose touch with reality, I'm here to keep you in check. Now you’re acting like you haven’t been doing this for years. I find it difficult to believe you sometimes.”
I shake my head. “It’s the glitch!”
Tyler shakes his head softly, kindly reprimanding me. I’ve told Tyler about the glitches, but he pretends to understand me. Cam is doing that thing again: where he makes me look mad. “I’m not doing this right now. Why can’t you just support me?”
Cam’s eyebrows fly up his face in bewilderment. “You have truly gone off the deep end.”
“You are a shameful woman, preying on my son at your big age. Not only is this criminal, but you are sinful.” She doesn’t need to tell me twice. I only live once in this crazy world, so I have to take my happiness and hold it close to my chest. I never made Tyler do anything outside of his will. I rejected his advances before I caved in. Does she think I want to find love with her son? Does she think I want to be a sinful, criminal woman? What am I supposed to do when everyone around me gets what they want, and I'm trapped in circumstances outside my power?
“What do you expect me to do? I’m stuck here.”
“There you go again, blaming the world… the glitch for your problems.”
The way he says the glitch discredits it.
“You don’t get what it’s like to be me.”
“I’ll never know what it’s like to be so twisted, but the least you can do is leave Tyler out of it.”
Tyler gets up abruptly, “I’m right here! I am not a child. I can choose whatever I want.” But no one’s listening to him.
I grip the back of my fork and speak through gritted teeth, “why didn’t you stop me?”
“It’s not my responsibility to tell you what to do. A person has their own moral grounds,” Cam retorts.
“What about protecting your son?” I wish for the glitch to come in clutch and make this all okay. Make Tyler someone else’s son or make them accept me. I’ve been denied so much, so why can’t the universe allow me this one thing?
“Maybe I felt sorry for you… I spoke to Tyler many times, but he’s never listened to me, and I can never talk to you about anything without you blaming the glitch for who you are. What you guys are doing is absolutely vile. But I feel sorry for you, and I hope you die early so my son can be free.”
“No,” I say. “No.”
No one says anything. Tyler is distraught. I don’t expect him to fight anymore. I push my plate away. “You’re welcome for the lunch.” And I leave.
Tyler follows me outside. As I weep, I gaze up at the universe, at the glitch and ask why I was made this way. Tyler tells me assuring words and hugs me tightly. There is no way I could’ve made up the glitch. My reality is in turmoil, and there's nothing I can do. It’s like I am the only conscious being while everyone else is a slave to this reality. Perhaps that’s how it is.