Magdalena is coming home five years after her twin’s accidental drowning, only to discover that the drowning may not have been accidental after all.
My hands are small. I have delicate knuckles that bruise at the slightest tapping, and the backs are a roadmap of veins, the throbbing blue pressing against my skin. My nails are short and chipped, my palms tapering down to wrists too small for normal bracelets. They are my sister’s hands, like my skin is hers and my smile. I’d been told that I was her ghost, clinging to the remnant of her life. I was drowning in her shipwreck, my lungs consumed by the tide of her memory, a foreign fleeting vision of alabaster skin.
While Esther is lost to the drag of death’s anonymity, I am still here, suspended a thousand miles and six feet above her. I am coming home after a 5-year race against the gradual magnetism of my sister, just in time for her birthday. I breathe her name as the ribbon of asphalt becomes a river, the syllables fogging the plastic sheet between gravity and me. The lights above me flicker on, and the woman next to me starting back to reality. Her fingers are a shower of gold and jewel sparkles, each band nestled into the puffy flesh of a type 2 diabetic Presbyterian ministers wife. She hurriedly packs her Bible, the pages wrinkled by the weight of her arm as she had sagged into sleep, tired from the multiple Bloody Marys she’d ordered in the first half of the flight.
The airplane bounces to the ground, and my knuckles fade from pale to red to white with fears of fire, failing breaks, gaping earth. But the apocalypse is postponed, and I walk off the plane safely, making my way to the bus stop, nervously holding my backpack to my chest as the people bump and push around me on the bus. As it bounces along, I look down at my hands, nails buried in the soft leather of my bag. I have tried to make my hands not hers – mine are ink stained while hers were soft and pure. I had watched with rapid fascination as a boy I used to love hunched over my hands, his pen tracing over my skin. Ligaments turned to vines, veins bloomed flowers. He held my hands so gently afterwards, told me of the brides in India who painted their hands before they were wed. His eyes were black liquid pools, warm skin dark on mine when he kissed me.