I found you digging holes again the other day. What it is you’re digging for is beyond me. A lot of things you say and do are beyond me. Things like the time you renamed the cat after seven years of Snowflake. He’s still learning to respond to that. Another time you threw a glass at the floor when I forgot to substitute pinto for black beans in the dinner I was making. You renamed me, then, too. An awful, ugly name that had me bending low to catch the acid before it fell out of my throat.
The holes you dig are deep. And wide. And just big enough that I consider searching your things. What would I find if I went through all those boxes in the basement? Some poor girl’s silver charm bracelet with three charms missing? The collectable shot glasses you assure me can’t fit with the others?
The holes are deep and wide and deeper still every time I glance out the window. I half consider checking the shed for things you might be burying. I say things because once the soul has left the body it is considered inanimate. Inanimate meaning lacking animation. Animation meaning life. I am nearly inanimate.
When you come back into the house for your periodic water breaks, I check your shoes for red or black or silt that’s not from your dirt piles. Unless you’ve learned to turn the dial on the washing machine. Which is improbable. You’d have to ask me for instructions- unless you’ve somehow overcome your paralyzing fear of all things Outsider.
When you fill your water glass at the tap, I take advantage of your stance and move my full body to the window. I can see almost all of your holes from there. They are deep and wide and wider than when I last saw them. Perhaps I should take a trip to the shed. I wonder if I would ever come back. I can picture what might be my hole: five feet and three inches wide, six feet deep in the earth. The window reminds me that it might already be dug. Perhaps you’re not digging for anything.
When you leave again by the back door, I clear my throat and wring my limp hands. Piano hands, my mother called them. Not dishwashing hands, bedmaking hands, or hole-digging hands. I wring them on a towel with black and white stripes. The air is thick and moist with humidity. I am breathing hard through a tube of lip gloss. It has become a game to see how many breaths I can hold without meeting the floor from lack of oxygen.
My piano hands itch to submerse themselves in something other than water. The holes are deeper, wider. Wider, deeper; deeper still. What are you hiding? What have you lost?
A fly trills in my left ear and I hear Mozart singing to me with his hands that are just like mine. The towel is a set of piano keys, glossy with unuse, singing to me of their own accord. My head snaps back to the window when I hear a shout. It is time for me to refill your water glass.
The glass shimmers in my hand where it meets the sun from the window, sparkling when the tap water hits it. I think of your gold teeth and how many times you’ve had to change a white one for something you could pawn later. The collectable shot-glasses are still in the basement. The tiny glasses that couldn’t fit in with the three big ones. The tiny glasses you’ve bandaged together in a box half the size of the basement.
My piano hands itch from the hot water because that is the only way you will drink it. I’ve thought about disabling the heater before, knowing it is improbable you would ever know. The glass shimmers in my hand and I turn it over easily in my palm, running my finger over its smooth surface. It wouldn’t hurt very much under my foot. If it were broken it wouldn’t hurt. My piano fingers press harder against the rim, admiring its diamond planes. You refuse to touch anything plastic. Perhaps it is because you know it could never be used as a weapon. I smile as I fill your glass with water that burns my hands. I know it could never be used as a weapon.
I can see you digging still from the window. Your mouth is a slash of determination, your feet set apart as if you are digging the foundations for a bridge, a house. Your hole is three feet and five inches wide. Your shovel cowers when it encounters a rock, but you force it to dig deeper still. A lot of things you say and do are beyond me.
Beethoven is singing with his two, deft hands and his two deaf ears. He is here, at my ear; here, in my mind. I can barely see the top of your head over the edge of the hole you’ve made. Perhaps you mean to bury me lengthwise. My hands drip over another glass as I wash it and think of all the beautiful quartz it would make if I were to break it. All the beautiful knives.
Your head has completely disappeared now. If I bent my legs and sprinted, I could reach the shed before it appeared again. My hand is an octopus snaking its slithering tentacles around the bottom of the glass. My hand is the head of Medusa making use of her unconventional hair. The glass dives toward the floor, and I admire the way its wings fold back; the way its talons grasp at nothing, preparing for its prey. It shatters beautifully. It is quartz and diamonds and knives.
The glass doesn’t hurt when I leave, carrying a few pieces with me in one pocket. I wrench open the back door, stumbling out of it like I’ve made use of the tiny glasses in the giant’s coffin. Your head begins to resurface, and I run, my nimble legs carrying me to the foliage surrounding the shed. There is a call for your glass to be refilled. You have drunk the water that burned my hands and still your head floats gracefully above the top of your hole. If I peered closely enough, I might see the cone-shaped protrusions forcing themselves out of your forehead; interrupting your hairline as they dig their own holes out of your skin.
The shed door is heavy, but my fingers are as nimble as my legs. Bach begs me not to dawdle in a throaty tone, hovering over the east set of keys with precision. I hear your shout again, and the latch on the door to the shed has all but disintegrated in my hands. I swing it open. I run inside. I am met with wood and metal and the smell of obsession.
There are shovels, all shapes and sizes, littering the room. My mouth falls open and all I can see is the top of your head coming up, out of your hole like a flower blooming. How much prettier it would be if I added color to your dirt-brown hair. What are you hiding? What have you lost?
Another shout and I’m grabbing the nearest blade, lunging for the door. Soon, you will come and find me. Soon, I will be found with metal and glass and quartz and diamonds and knives.
I can see the top of your head rising higher as I race toward you. There is your neck, there are your shoulders. There are your eyebrows, pulled low over your eyes like tiny twin cloaks. Here are your wide eyes as I stand over you, admiring the look on your face until I hear another sound.
There is a man at the fence, watching me watching you as I hold a blade over your head. He is clothed solely in black, his face covered by a hood, his features a mysterious swirl. I feel my own features frost over with fear as I see what it is he is holding.
You are smiling, gold teeth glinting. It is a shovel.