Emilio’s mother was long-practiced in the art of summoning a saint. For a burn, she’d appeal to the apostle John. It was John who got the call twice a day for a year when Emilio... [+]
Not long after she moved – ties cut, no looking back, he’d never find her on that side of town anyway, if he bothered to look – she found a string of Christmas lights at the thrift store when she went looking for a lamp. She hauled the paper bag up to the counter and they let her plug the tail end into the power strip they kept there. The paper bag lit up like a jar of multicolored lightning bugs. She briefly recalled chasing them around her front yard as a child. She’d captured one and tore off its luminescent rear and balanced it on her left-hand ring finger.
"Look, I'm married! I'm married!" she’d squealed to her brothers and sisters, showing off her shiny accessory. They shrieked and ran from her. "Gross! Gross!"
She'd been just that kind of girl once. The one that craved the shiniest, the prettiest, the brightest. The one that would rip a bug in half and display it on her finger, even if it had everyone else fleeing in another direction. Until one person didn't flee.
She had the shiniest and the prettiest and brightest of everything for a while. Until she didn't. The price for all the shiny pretty, bright things was mottled purple that faded to a sickly green.
She bought the Christmas lights, and strung them around her new living room, not caring that the ancient floor beneath her squeaked and groaned under her weight as she stretched and hung, stretched and hung. Not caring that even her breath seemed to echo in the almost empty room. No one could sneak up on her now. She no longer had the worry of heated footsteps and heavy breath.
The sun slipped down and she pulled all her curtains, plugged in her new used lights. They softened the emptiness around her and inside her. The one gently used recliner sat in the corner like a throne. She alighted her throne and bathed in the colorful lighting, feeling beautiful and regal. She left her body and began moving across the floor, moving to music that was not there. She watched herself dance and felt the invisible music pulse through her veins.
She remembered when she used to dance always. She remembered when her world pulsed with color and beauty. She remembered when she longed to be touched, when she knew what her body was good for. She couldn't remember when she'd forgotten, but it no longer seemed to matter. She was the queen of her castle now, no matter how dim, how homely, how dark.