I tell the story beside a fire in the Organs, the peaks a dark mass at my back. “I tried to drown myself in a hot tub,” I say. No moon, just a shock of stars. My sister should be here, but she’s forever in California, and I’m in New Mexico, a plate of pasta ignored in my lap.
My lover is across from me, sauce caked to his beard like blood. Today, he identified life for me: birds, lizards, juniper, yucca. He worships what survives. Even a crust of dirt he finds remarkable. Now, deep in on the whiskey, he’s talking about climate change, politics, capitalism, fascism.
“I tried to drown myself,” I say again. “Narcissism,” I say, laughing, hand over heart like a pledge. But he isn’t laughing and suddenly I’m back there with her.
Halloween, high school, Tinker Bell glittering the crowd. Think happy thoughts! The pale blue cotton shirt and sparkling tights, the look of them wet and clinging like a new layer of skin. A silly party—hers—and water all around, and all night. Hot tub, pool: tiptoeing between, wings dripping. Later, the sealed cover. Body floating there in the dark.
Her body and not my body.
That Zeppelin song dissolving, Tangerine, Tangerine. The words in my mouth like actual fruit, solid and sweet and fleeting: she was my queen, a thousand years between.
My lover has his arms around me now, the fire collapsed into a jeweled pit of light. “Sorry,” he’s saying. “Your sister, I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”