She imagined she was dying.
"Dear, are you ready?"
There was no more packing to be done. Justine was sitting on her bed, prepared with one last cigarette.
There was one suitcase, which her father had already brought down, and one bag of items from the medicine cabinet. She was leaving everything else.
The stairs held her up; she stepped through them, feeling each one. She would remember that the most, looking out the dining room window, each step a new way of seeing. Her parents were small, shining, stiff in the car.
Traffic on the George Washington Bridge, everything in her path was a test. She wanted it to be very difficult. Every moment demanded a struggle, and she had to be vigilant.
I want to feel this much all the time.
I never meant for this to happen.
She remembered the smell of his saliva on her. Something must be done, she'd told him..I will go myself.
I must remember everything, I must feel the fullness of every moment.
The only way anything was going to happen was when she was alone.
I had a vision, she'd said.
She couldn't fathom the limitations of madness.
I saw something. I am powerless to speak it. You cannot possibly understand.
She watched the auburn colors blur past her window. The road was making her sick, she closed her eyes.
"You know, this road was originally intended to be a scenic drive," her father said. "They never expected it to become a commuter road. See -- there's no shoulder here."
"It's lovely," her mother said.
If she had been in love, she didn't think she was any longer.
She wasn't hungry the way she used to be, fattened up, insulated. She felt raw and exposed, peeled. Her skin was a series of highly sensitive spines. She could sense sadness with the ends of her hair. The car circled at the end of the road and turned onto the local highway. They passed through towns now, alternately slowing down and accelerating through Highland Falls, West Point. Her chest felt shallow, stopped up. Where am I going, she thought wildly. She held onto the handle of the door to steady herself. She touched her belly.
Her parents were quiet. She held her breath to prevent them from hearing her thoughts. Her mother rolled down her window and Justine let out her breath in a prolonged hiss. Perhaps she could bear it as long as the windows were open.
Her mind rotated, spun. How did it feel for him, this dying without knowing, the flick of her fingers on a switch.
She ran her tongue over her teeth, savoring the taste and perpetual indeterminateness of her core. She opened to swallow, possess, master it.
The town was immobile. The stillness of the colors shocked
her, made her blink and tear. Sounds of children replaced the wind in her
ears. Her hands pressed her temples and forehead. The car swung around
and they climbed a narrow wooded road. A solitary gray building waited.
Two women raking leaves on the front lawn stopped to watch their car.
The seatbelt was unfastened and she retched out the door. She gulped the
air in mouthfuls and stumbled like a colt over the stones, unbalanced,
© 2002 Jaime Morelli, all rights reserved
appears here by permission