Hot Metal Bridge

Current Issue : Number Twenty-Five

Skeletons

BY HANNAH SOYER

MONDAY: I am moving on Saturday. I am moving to a new town and a new state which means I am leaving this town and this state and this home. I am moving and I am terrible at goodbyes. I am moving and I am trying to write a fictionalized story about the terrors of change for the short story collection my friend and I are compiling but I don’t know how to do this and so I simply tell the truth.

I am packing in fits and spurts. One day I take out all of the boxes that a neighbor has lent me and space them out evenly over the living room floor. They are empty, for now.

When I sit down at my laptop between bouts of packing to type this I lay my hand flat on the keyboard and realize it looks dead, like something that doesn’t belong to me, but instead a corpse found in the woods, the body of a girl abducted and betrayed and left for dead.

I am over two weeks late on my period—there is nothing growing inside of me*, though, only knots of stress. Perhaps my body is panicking at the thought of uprooting. Perhaps my body just doesn’t know what to do.

 

*I read a story once about a girl who didn’t get her period for an entire year after being raped because of the mental trauma. She finally asked her doctor about it at the end of the year, and when they sent her to the labs to have her blood drawn and tested for anemia, the lab technician couldn’t even find a vein. They thought they did, after about 10 minutes of applying heat to her arms and massaging them, but once they stuck the needle in nothing came out. So she got sent to a specialist, who sent her to another specialist, who did the one thing all of the doctors should have done to begin with and tried to find her pulse. She didn’t have one.

 

TUESDAY: When I am not packing or trying to write I spend hours lying on the floor of my kitchen, staring up at the light above me. When I close my eyes the light doubles against my eyelids and I feel like I’m looking at one of those things you store your contacts in at the end of the day.

I don’t know what to do about the skeletons in the closet. They don’t fit neatly in any of the boxes unless I take them apart and I cannot do that.

My friends are coming at the end of the week to help me put all of the boxes and my couch into the moving truck and the skeletons must be put away securely by then, but I don’t know how. When I go stand in front of the closet to look at them I am overcome by an abundant lack of answers. Sometimes I slide in between them and curl up in the darkness, letting their bones form a weird cloak around me. When I am pressed up against the back wall of the closet my mind is flooded with memories that make me bite my fist to keep from screaming in pain: the sight of tears running down my dad’s cheeks at his friend’s funeral, made blurry by my own tears, the sound my cat made when he was hit by a car, something too human, too close to a dying child, the smell of the room when I walked in on the man I was in love with on top of another woman, a sharp smell, a smell that cut my heart open and made me stumble and gasp no.

That man told me I was a masochist. The skeletons in the closet would agree with him.

 

WEDNESDAY: I am labeling each box* I pack, painstakingly arranging items so that their curves and points and edges fit perfectly together. VERY FRAGILE KITCHEN goes in black Sharpie on one—glasses I nicked from restaurants, bowls bought at Goodwill, plates I took from my dad’s house. Then there’s BOOKS which has Michelle Tea and Maggie Nelson and Carmen Maria Machado, and KNICKKNACKS which has the cat statue and the pens and pencils and picture frames and jewelry and the collar from the cat. There’s another kitchen box with half eaten food. And then there’s my suitcase with clothes and another box of HANGERS + BEDROOM DECORATIONS. I am putting my travel-sized shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste in my backpack, along with my laptop and notebook. I have thrown out all of my makeup. Really, I can load all of these boxes into the truck myself. It’s the couch I’ll need help with. And then of course the skeletons are heavier than they look.

 

*I put pain in boxes, seal the boxes with tape, stack them in the closet.

 

THURSDAY: The skeletons are not a metaphor. They’re real. Real bone. Real human remains. I don’t know how they got here, or maybe I do but don’t want to tell. Or maybe my subconscious knows but my conscious does not. Maybe they were put in the closet* when I was gone some day or night or hour.

I wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of their bones knocking against the closet door.

 

*What if the skeletons end up being more alive than the person whose closet they’re living in is? Like, the person who is actually made of flesh and blood and, yes, bone, but also so much more than that. What if that person whose closet is home to a collection of skeletons—what if she’s not actually powerful enough and by powerful enough I mean human enough and by human enough I mean woman enough—what if she can’t make the skeletons leave?

 

FRIDAY: I can’t quite make myself take down the photos and posters from the walls. The feeling of an oncoming apocalypse has settled over me like a net. There is absolutely nothing I can do to stop tomorrow coming. Nothing at all.

Panic is lying low inside of me, a thin layer of pulsing fear far under my skin. But by midday it’s merely an annoying distraction, and by evening, a quiet itch.

I put everything I can into boxes. When the only things left are my overnight backpack, mattress, and memories trapped in pictures on the wall, I open the door to the closet. The skulls are grinning at me. For one foolish second I think of leaving them, digging a hole in the park behind my apartment at night and bidding them good riddance. But of course this is impossible. I read a story once of a girl who buried her skeletons and before she had shoveled the last scoop of dirt onto their grave she had turned to stone.

So instead, I lay each skeleton on its back, one on top of the other, in a box I begged the co-op next door for. Their bones touch and make a sorrowful, hollow sound. Before I close the lid over them and tape it shut, I make myself stare into the black shadows where their eyes would be. A vision, then: Skeletons under my bed in my new apartment, skeletons peering around the door, skeletons crawling up to lay beside me and place their dead bone against my flesh. Acid rises, burning, in the back of my throat. I close the lid.

That night, I sleep in a room that is empty save for my mattress and posters on the wall.

 

SATURDAY: We are loading the boxes into the truck. What is harder to do—leaving a person or leaving a place?

The skeletons are quiet the whole time, even when their box gets jostled by the couch*.

I have the last box in my arms and suddenly the world is threatening to close in around me. The trees are losing their color, the grass seems to be turning brown, the pavement of the parking lot is churning. Run, I think. Run. Run. Run. My mind latches onto this word and I believe for a split second that this is a logical idea.

But of course there is the new apartment in the new city in the new state and the new job and new people. I hug my friends goodbye. I am climbing into the driver’s seat of the truck, the last box beside me. I don’t cry because I am still looking out at the world from behind the wall inside of me that’s behind my eyes. I feel like I am choking but the only thing to do is drive.

I turn the key in the ignition and pull away from the curb. You will like this, I say to myself about the new apartment in the new city in the new state and the new job and new people, but the words bounce around in my skull and take on the tone of people from my past.

Even if the entire universe rearranged itself so that its star particles were ground particles and humans’ cells made up the ocean, even if time stopped moving and showed up in suit and tie and said “I’m quite tired now, I think I’ll be done, may I have a cup of tea?” there are some things you can never stop from happening.

 

*I read a story once about a girl who took her skeletons with her when she moved because she had read a story once about a girl who had tried to bury her skeletons in the park but in shoveling dirt over their bones had turned to stone. The girl that took her skeletons with her couldn’t find a big enough box to put them all in and so had to ask the undertaker—yes, I’m being serious—to use a box that he got coffins shipped to him in, and it turned out that that box worked. The skeletons, at least in the story, weren’t happy about being put into a box that once held something that holds dead things.



Hannah Soyer is a disabled creative writer and journalist interested perceptions and representations of what we consider 'other.' She is the creator of the This Body is Worthy project, and founder of Freedom Words, a program to design and implement creative writing workshops specifically for students with disabilities. She has been published in Cosmopolitan, InkLit magazine, Mikrokosmos Journal, Rooted in Rights, and her most recent piece, "Displacement," has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Learn more about her work here and follow her on Twitter