A low trunk squatted beside my bed. A pitcher and bowl sat in the middle of it, or off center when I was feeling artsy. The porcelain was cream and a pair of ducks waddled on the round belly of the pitcher. Colorless bodies, they rose in relief without any outlines. Blue ribbons at their throats and pale orange flippers. A blue border circled the edge of the bowl. Tea candles sat in a shallow wicker basket. They came into the house in saturated cranberries and pine greens, deep eggplants. The sun pulled out the colors and left them pale and dusty. They smelled like dead grass from the wicker basket. I never lit them.
My father made me a bookcase for Christmas. All I did was read. Rock and read. I pulled all of the books out on Saturday mornings and piled them around me while I dusted the shelves. I reshelved the books horizontally. There were too many to fit vertically.
My bed was a shifting mess from the start. Two long one by fours fit into the rails and kept the mattress and box spring in the frame. Every month or so, the whole contraption shifted whlie I slept and a wooden slat fell out of place, dropping the corner of the mattress and box spring to the hardwood floor with a loud crash that woke me in the middle of the night. My body slid down the mattress and I’d wake with my feet higher than my head and my nightgown over my head.
On Sunday mornings I’d pull out one of the long wooden slats and lie it on the floor at the foot of my bed. I’d tune the radio to mass and kneel on the slat, the yellow morning sun streaming in and lighting my room in a way that made me think I really was holy and this really might be heaven. I was never meant for this living world. The house was shaking itself to the ground around me and stacks of plates were catching on fire while the chimney crumbled, but I drew a circle around myself as I kneeled on a wooden slat in the sunshine and prayed with a fervor known only to small, scared little girls.
I was the strangest child. My head banging to the floor during the night. Playing mass on Sunday mornings while my sisters watched cartoons. Rocking myself into a frenzy. Had God had a heart, I would have grown a small pair of wings along my spine and flown out the window in the middle of a black night, dropping my body midflight. Somewhere, over some country or lost in space, a small pair of wings cut from paper and folded along a thumb creased seam flaps open and closed, rolling over small hills of air.
I built a world away from my family in a house where no one had any room. I squirreled away powdery silver gum wrappers folded in tight squares in a teapot. I slipped squares of palm sized paper in the skeletons of my bureaus, between drawers light with a child’s clothes. I slid notebooks between my mattress and boxspring. I was desperate to live in a world away from my family, in a place where the sun laid down holy beams of light.