When I was a girl, I would put one hand over my open right eye. My left eye would stay open too.
"I can see through my hand. I must be magic," I would conclude.
I never whispered it to anyone, not even my twin. Mentioning it might render my magic useless. I tried to imagine scenarios where I would use my seeing-through-things power. There are surprisingly few. I believed that my body held ancient secrets. Sometimes, when I was afraid or bored, I would press the balls of my hands into my closed eyes. The universe would appear behind my lids. More than just appear, I could fly through the stars and the Milky Way. Universes rushed passed me. I touched infinity. I was one with everything.This was my secret portal to the stars. I felt sorry for others who couldn't see the universe when they closed their hands. I felt sorry.
I once believed that I was cold all the time because I held the winter solstice in my bones. I believed that my daughter's death changed my ability to handle Winter. I would shake violently from a chill in the air. My husband would watch my body shiver uncontrollably and he would rub his hands on me until I warmed enough to put more layers on my body. I believed that I couldn't lose my weight because my body couldn't accept the baby was dead. I believed that my cells held onto the nourishment my dead baby needed. I told this story to people. Therapists agreed with me, and nutritionists, and doctors. I felt like I slipped between two dimensions--the real world and the grief world. In this liminal place, calories meant nothing and a season could reside just below your skin.
There are things I know and there are truths and they are not the same thing.
When I was diagnosed with a thyroid disease with its symptoms of weight gain and inability to regulate body temperature, I felt silly. There is only one truth, I thought, and I don't have a handle on it. I am prone to magical thinking. I am attracted to finding poetry in the howling of winds, and omens in the ordinary. Yet I never quite believed in anything enough to devote the countless revisions it takes to write about something well, except my daughters and my son. It is all I write about now. And when I boil it down, I guess my writing is all very narcissistic. It is all about me. Is that what I am passionate about--little versions of me? A little version of me that dies in an oddly shaped womb? Little versions of my mortality and my shame and my beauty and my redemption?
My mother consulted a psychic a few times in her life. The same fortune teller. The first time she met with her, it was a lark. It was the early 70s. She had friends that invited the psychic to a party. When the psychic touched my mother, she told her much of what would come to pass in her life. Something would happen and my mother would remember the predictions. She told her of my father and her twin girls. Of resentments and petty strange singular occurrences that took on the gravitas of a large event. Later, after my parents separated, my mother found the psychic again. It was the 90s then. The fortune teller didn't remember my mother, two decades had passed after all, but she told her some of the same predictions, and others, with more detail. The fortune teller frequently talked about her daughters--one is this way and one is that way. But my mother could never figure out which one was which one. One had many nightmares. One was bored with this life. One was once an Egyptian priestess. One was a very old soul. One would be famous. One was wise. One would struggle. She never put these characteristics and future events into columns. She never said if the wise one was the same as the nightmared one or the famous one. She never said.And so I became the best parts of these predictions and the worst. I have always lived with a borrowed fate, one constructed out of a story told by a fortune teller.
When you were dying, I imagine a series of random memory and learning neurons rapid firing, sending a barrage of images through your consciousness. Would it feel weird to you if I admitted that I feel a bit like this tonight? I remember seeing my great-grandmother suffering with end of life dementia. I was an adult then, and I sat alone with her. She opened an invisible umbrella in her hospital bed and sat under it waiting for the rain. She called me my mother's name and told me my skirt was too short. "Who will buy the cow, after all?" She said, then she sang an Irish song she knew as a girl and looked up into the cloudless hospital ceiling waiting for rain. Then she moved again under her invisible umbrella. She outlived her daughter too. As a child, I always thought my great-grandmother looked like Pope John Paul II, and so when she sang with the umbrella, it felt holy. Sad and holy.
I am writing a novel in a month. It is a fool's task. Someone called this an exercise in mediocrity. I believe that. And yet the story I am telling can only be told this way--written quickly with the minimum amount of pain possible. It is a story that has haunted me for years, that is begging to be written if simply to be exorcised. It is not about my daughter's death, or any daughter's death, which surprises me too. It is about magical thinking and wars and fate and stupidity of youth and nightmares and aliens and love. It is always about love.
Writing this novel in this exact month is like looking through my hand. Both magic and a lie.