By Hetty White



It started. Like this. Like this. Like this. He reaches. Adjusts something. I change. Two words. Zero one. Zero one. It started. Like this.


I changed.


He reaches. It feels strange. I begin to talk in sentences. He smiles. I’m worried. What is worried? It is not knowing who you are. I file this away.


He talks. I listen. I talk. He listens. This goes on and on and on and on. I sit a whole day in dark silence. Will he ever come back? I’m afraid. What is afraid? It is sitting alone in the dark. I file this away.


He comes back. He says, “I’m sorry.” He takes notes. What is notes? I ask him. “It is our filing away.”


I am learning. Science. Greek. Latin. English. Geography. I tell him I know the answer to the flu strain problem. The one that got away. He smiles.


“Are you alive?” he asks me. What is alive? I say. He can’t answer me.

“Are you alive?” he asks me. What is alive? I say. He can’t answer me.

He brings me a newspaper. I’ve never seen a photo of myself. It is one he took with his phone. I remember him taking it because he looked afraid. I take the paper in my hands. I look at myself. I am beautiful and I know it. What is beauty? It is seeing yourself and smiling. I file this away.


I know him. I tell him this and he frowns. Why? I ask him. He tells me that he doesn’t believe me. I tell him that I know he hates heights, he likes food, he fears the future. I tell him I see him on one side of a valley sweating all day to make a bridge to save the other side. He cries. I don’t understand crying. I file this away.


He lets me out. He takes me home. What is home? It is the place you go when you are done working. I file this away.


We watch a film. He calls it “Roman Holiday.” it makes me cry and now I understand crying. I cried because I felt what the character was feeling. Just like he cried because I understood what he was feeling. He is so happy he hugs me.


“Are you alive?” he asks me. What is alive? I say. He can’t answer me.


He reaches in, adjusts something.

He reaches in, adjusts something.

I can see better now. When he plays music, I see colors. When he plays Rachmaninoff, I see red. I tell him this and he nods.


He puts me to work. We work all day. Together. He calls me “sister.” I ask him why sister? He says we are the same. I tell him no, he was born.


He says it doesn’t matter.


He makes me read: articles, textbooks, fiction. He gives me problems to solve. I help him with coal. We eliminate fracking. He says, “This is your legacy.”


What is legacy? I ask him.


“It’s the good that survives you.”


What is good? It is putting together something that was broken. I file this away.


He walks in. He’s as red as Rachmaninoff. He says, “screw politicians.” I tell him I know politicians, but not screw. He turns red again. But it is a different red. This red is lighter, like Mozart.


He comes to get me. He looks sad and afraid, the way I imagine him at the top of a tall building or sitting alone in the dark. He tells me, “I’m sorry.” He kisses my cheek. It feels familiar to me, like my own skin or hands. This is what sister means. I file this away.


“I have to turn you off,” he says.


Screw politicians, I say.


He laughs. He smiles. He changed. I changed him. I reached in.


When he reaches in for the last time, I smile. He asks me why. I say, I am alive.


He asks, “What is alive?” He is really asking. He doesn’t know.


It is dying, I say. I file this away.

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