When night breaks into the house, it crashes directly through my ribs and pours in the memories of when we were children on a dusty road that lead nowhere. Nostalgia expands in my body until I heave with tears and hope and longing that you will reach for me as I reach for you, my sisters and brothers. Reach for me with the life we shared like blood, and the field we trampled to the pond, and the dogs on the porch that I hedged around nervously as you laughed, dribbling your basketball. Reach for me when your mother spread food across the table, enough for an army of children with every intention of slipping ranks and breaking the rules, and she cocked an eye at us because she knew. She drank her coffee and she knew.

I drift in our history at night: the location of your mailbox, the color of clay dusting my shoes, the kids down the road I hated because they could see you anytime, the horses along the way. The pain sears me because without you, I do not fully live, and when I think of you, I drink of you. I grow dizzy in moonlight or blackness, sloppy with the love of youth and you and me and us and our mothers.

How could we have been without one another for so long? For the love of God, we once came out of one home, our mothers practically two halves of one woman who, when together, felt joyfully whole. How could I have existed alive and not alive? How could I have forgotten that you are my mortar, my missiles, the sharpness of my joy? Sometimes I loathe that you all can have each other, even hissing like cats and spitting curses between the welcomes back to never-closing arms, when I can never truly have you. Not that way. Then I am with you and you remind me that I always have you, because what our mothers managed to forge was more potent than blood; it was kinship.

It’s not every night that I remember the ghost stories you told me as we tripped through the graveyard and your neighbor came to yell that we were a disgrace for disturbing the dead. I do not always remember the cadence or spark of your speech, or how every one phrase you utter holds more meaning that any story I could tell in my own, beautiful way. The most likely truth is, with time, this will fade. I will not look back at the pictures or try to text or send you emails. I will harden and dull and lose sight of who I am again because I lose sight of you. It does not have to be this way, sisters and brothers. We can stay close, keep the fire lit, and even when it burns us, keep each other warm.

Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

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