Rachel had expected to draw her sisters' attention as she pulled open the large wooden door of the shed, but they didn't come her way. The door made surprisingly little noise and with their backs turned and their game becoming more complicated and nuanced, they didn't notice what Rachel was doing.
Rachel stepped up. The floor of the shed was about fourteen inches from the dirt. It was the large shed that Rachel chose. She chose the larger shed, assuming that more space made it more likely that the shed would hold the items she sought.
She knew what she needed. It was almost instinctual. She knew from books and movies she imagined.
She thought of how good everything would be when she was done. How still.
The inside of the shed was very cluttered. As Rachel had been sure that it would be. Rachel shut the door behind her and found that despite a complete absence of windows, it was not very dark. The bright sunlight burst through the hastily layered shingles. They seemed to be staggered, except that they were not quite staggered in a way that led to an absence of holes in the roof. The roof in fact had several large open patches, and this allowed her to see clearly within the windowless structure.
The light was gray and a thin powder almost seemed to float on the air. The left side of the structure was filled with ceramic molds. No, filled was not exactly the word. It was a wall of molds, at least thirteen feet in height, rising nearly to the ceiling. Rachel craned her neck upwards. She looked up at the peak of the molds mountain. It looked so large to her.
She wondered how much larger it would be if she had both of her eyes.
She wondered how she'd never known about her missing eye.
How hadn't she known?
How hadn't she known about the skin on her face? Too taut. Too wrinkled at the edges where her face met her neck and chin.
Rachel thought of all the years in her life that had passed. She'd had this hideous face and she hadn't known. But what had she thought she looked like?
She tried to recall.
Dance Photos. Every year at The Dance Connection they took photos in costume before the recital. When Rachel was three she dressed as an Indian. The next year her class was Lumiere from Beauty and The Beast. Then she began taking multiple classes and it was at least three costumes every year. Cowgirl. Kermit the Frog. Green Celtic Dress. Red Celtic Dress. Pink and black leotard.
Spiral glow-in-the-dark neon green and black leotard. Green sequin dress. Green velour dress. And so on and son on. Sequins, velour, glitter and spandex. Every year for the past eight years. For as long as Rachel could remember.
And for every single one of those years there were pictures. Nearly thirty class pictures and hundreds of individual pictures.
Rachel couldn't comprehend how she hadn't known.
It really was the way she'd described it to be her mother.
She had sort of known. She'd known it in a very detached sort of way. The thought would surface every once in a while and she'd catch a little peak of it, just a glimpse before pushing the thoughts down. She buried them. She produced new thoughts. She worried about things. She worried about going to Hell and she worried that if she didn't step on the right tiles the devil would come and get her and she worried that if she didn't tap her foot in time to the mantra "I love God and Jesus Christ" that she would die or she would combust or something else really terrible would happen.
Rachel stood in the dusty gray air, twisting her white tennis show into the powder. She thought of how she'd felt when she saw her face. She was not surprised. It was something else that she felt.
It was like a feeling of deja vu. It was like experiencing something that hadn't really happened before and still it felt so familiar. It was like remembering something she'd forgotten. It was a feeling of oh, that's right....
Rachel pulled herself from these thoughts, as much as it was possible. The remnants of the banished worries lingered in the back of her mind, throbbing in a low hum.
She carefully sidestepped the mountain of gritty, white molds and stretched her legs across the pile of mold belts that lay in a heap on the right side of the pile. Bringing her second leg across the heap and leaning forward, Rachel could see that the pile of molds only continued as far back as maybe eight feet. The shed was about half the size of the house and the floor continued for nearly ten more feet after the mountain of molds.
Behind the mountain was a heap of furniture and tools. There was a loveseat and three well-used tables, one dining room and two patio.
Rachel fell to her hands and knees and began to dig. Sifting through the garbage and junk. She was searching for one item in particular. It was something her grandparents kept in their garage at all times. In case of emergencies. She hoped that Helene and Octavio would keep one too.
There were garbage bags full of old clothing. Finished ceramics, meticulously painted, lay across the floor. Ladders hung from long skinny nails on the plywood walls.
As she dug, Rachel thought about how she would do it. She knew the tools she would use and the steps that she would follow. What she couldn't sort out was the where and the when. Where should she do this? In the backyard? In the house?
No, on second thought she would be stopped in the house. She'd be caught before she could complete her task. In the yard, she may attract the attention of the neighbors.
She began ripping blue plastic tarps from the furniture that was still covered. She hoped that the item she sought may be hidden beneath the rippling sheets of blue.
Under the third tarp, she found not the item she was seeking, but her Where. She found her Where and it was like a sign from the universe.
I'm doing the right thing....she thought.
An overstuffed armchair sat amongst the other discarded furniture. Rachel stood trembling with a corner of tarp in her right hand, pulled away from her Where. She ripped the remainder of the tarp free and swung her body in a circle, then letting it body drop into the dusty orange cushioning.
She stared straight ahead. The armchair faced the front of the shed on a diagonal slant. She could see the backside of the molds mountain on her right and she could the long thin line of sunlight that split the center of the two large doors. She could still hear her sisters laughing and playing, their game broken occasionally by shouts and biting comments from Nita.
Rachel kicked aside several items, clearing the space on the shed floor directly in front of the armchair. She then pressed her feet directly into the floor and stretched out each arm, gripping the front of the chair's arms. She pushed her back and neck into the back of the chair. She gave her hair a shake.
And then she opened her eye and mouth as wide as each of them could.
YOU ARE READING
***Long-listed for the Watty's 2018***Rachel lives in constant fear that she will burst into flames. She can feel the heat building in her gut. She keeps buckets of water under the bed. She keeps them to fend off the flames that her body may create...