In the autumn of 1999, my hair was the same color as the leaves at my feet against the iron gray of sky or sidewalk. The burnished and residual gold of dead leaves, or the church stones of the cities we've shared.
My backpack was studiously plain and denim. I'd ripped off the tag attached to it declaring it to be Jansport or whatever line or label long ago. It was heavy on my shoulders, weighted with the 30 pounds of books school kids are convinced they will need and never do. Algebra, English, Biology, French, Health, and Theater.
I forget now who I'm writing to. Myself then or myself now, or Nicholas. But maybe there's no difference. It wasn't long. My hair. I had cut it short in the spring and wouldn't touch it again until early 2002. I was 14, but not for the first time, and I knew that. As I got off my bus and walked down the gentle curve and decline of the street which fed my home all it's visitors, noting the vivid shade of green clinging to each lawn but ours, I knew that. Knew it by the depth of the ashes in my grandfather's urn, now one month old. The heaviest infant my mother ever bore.
My house, on a block of neat, single-story homes with plain green lawn, was a shade of gray I encounter daily in the folds of your clothes.
Nicholas' clothes. Those once black, worn enough to show faint shadows of his skin beneath.
The lawn of our house was bare dust and sand, a truer gold than my body would ever admit to itself. I knew it then; that royalty can be found when the rocks in the ground are pulled away to show what was nesting beneath them. Pale things in the moisture long since baked out of the surface of the world by the sun and bleached to bone by winters unnumbered.
At 14, I knew there was truth in the endlessly dancing fingers of Tori Amos across her piano keys. That only that which bleeds could be considered precious, if anything else could be considered at all.
All my secret thoughts were trapped between the pages of a notebook, the glossy purple cover unmarked as I was unmarked and would always remain unmarked. Where's Evelyn? I don't know. I don't know, and I would never know. No marks of birthright. No ring of a dynasty. No high cheekbones, no authoritative brow. In the long line of girls fleeing the bus stops of the world, walking toward the faded twilights of things which bled and were once black, Evelyn is the one who doesn't stand in line at all. Who would never be found, but hide beneath the dead roses in the hedges long since submitted to brittle, faithless, tractionless, certainty.
The desert wilderness of my home was clutched in the bony hand of an ancient creeping rose. Massive, close to the ground, and dark under the blooming and white-armed sage, it remained there for the whole of my life, an exhumed corpse left to resinate and petrify under the wide arms of the elements. There's some metaphor for a heart, there. Maybe even mine.
In a neat line, drawn in a square along our property, fenced in sagging red-painted wood, all life stopped except that which could grow wild and utterly ignored.
The point of it all, Evelyn, is to not forget from where you came. The substance, in actuality, from which you were made.