November 19, 2015
After the guests left, Soeur came clomping in the scraggly grass across the yard, making the bugs fly, yelling about a book I’d borrowed without permission. She who never yelled. She who was small and skinny with dark, soft eyes that avidly studied the world around her. A quiet child who concentrated intensely, her fingers trapped in some science book. Sometimes she read detective novels, sometimes the lacquered glamour ads in magazines. She read books thoroughly from beginning to end, as she did not believe in skimming or jumping pages. She studied hard in the evening, doing her homework, one subject after another, one, two, three hours straight.
In photos of Soeur and me, I was always much bigger: heavier, thicker boned, thoughtless in the way I claimed space. She was skinny but filled the air with her presence.
“The book,” Soeur said. “Give it back.”
This was not my sister. This was a girl possessed. This place was changing her too. Her lips were puffy and raw like she’d been licking and biting them. Her voice was a screech I did not recognize. The Soeur I remembered had a melodious cadence.
As she screamed, an inordinate rage and breath-catching irritation built within me. I tried hard to control it, but my sister, water to my fire, yin to my out-of-control yang, wasn’t showing her usual temperance. My own fury came like one hundred horns and one hundred bells. My nerves a chorus of plucked strings, a quiver of quivering. The blood in my fingertips pulsed.
“Shut up,” I said, my fingers balling, my hand making fists.
Family was supposed to be a safe zone. The petunias nodded yes, yes to the wind. Brown-winged butterflies mingled and bees scribbled invisibly over hibiscus flowers. The sun shot black spots into my eyes while the wind moaned like a low fire. The knife in my pocket was heavy. My jaws ached as I clenched them to keep from screaming into the quiet night.
I grabbed the glass bottle of Fanta I was drinking and threw it at Soeur. She gasped. The bottle hit the wall and broke into tiny pieces.
Look what we do to one another, I thought. The world was dangerous. Something deep in me needed to be tapped, rooted out. I had thrown the bottle at my sister on a day that had seemed plain. So that I could never trust myself, so that every day from then on held in its purposeful or dreamy breaths the possibility of precipitous rage. While Soeur usually remained subdued, I was violent and easily angered, brutal and cruel when I fought.
I tried to suck in air, the heaves from my body terribly loud: frightening. My sister hugged me and I let her, and I held on, her heartbeat against my chest. Its beautiful, crazy boom boom. A drum beating. A cup of sparking fireflies. As I cried, her fingers nestled in the ridges of my spine.
“Can I sleep in your bed?” I asked, even though it was hot. The kind of hot that made sleeping next to another person absurd, the pulling apart of skin moist and elastic.
I looked at Soeur in the stutters and twitches of sleep, her arms in disarray like fish confused by waves. Her body flinched, and it clicked, and it dreamed. The flickering of eyelids, like moths that slowed their flight before landing. In the bed, we pressed together, each filled with the other’s emptiness, the other’s trop-plein. Gray light fell through the windows, a disorienting, dusty light. I looked at the flitting shadows on the wall, listened to a car outside, its roar, its violent, rattling bass that summoned all of Thomassin. My head pillowed by a length of arm, I listened to Soeur’s breathing—each inhale’s up-strum.
Born in Port-au-Prince, M.J. FIEVRE is the author of A Sky the Color of Chaos (Beating Winward, 2015). M.J. holds a bachelor’s degree in Education from Barry University and an MFA from the Creative Writing program at Florida International University. She is currently a professor at Miami Dade College. A Sky the Color of Chaos will be published in December, 2015 with limited copies available at the Miami Book Fair International Nov. 21.