It felt like the windows were broken. And the glass was on the floor, beneath her feet, sneaking its way underneath the skin so softly it didn’t hurt yet. There was a heavy ache inside her chest. It was cavernous, and full, like a hole in the ground turning in on itself.
She had words. She had them, but not close to her; they were sort of up high on a shelf she could barely reach with the soft tip of her finger.
She smiled, in an all-I-can-do-is-smile sort of way. She let out a breath. Yes, she thought. I am just fine.
Her brown skin isn’t in the ground. Even if brown skin just like hers is. It isn’t her skin cold.
Her eyes are simply new, in an Ecclesiastic way—as in, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness— as in, I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun.
She said in her heart, Come on now, you’re alive though, have joy. She let out a breath. Was she crazy? To what end?
She could build houses, plant plants, window gardens of herbs, and tall and wide fruit trees all throughout her backyard. She could find the hidden treasures of her local thrift stores and adorn her house so nicely all the bloggers would wish they could interview her for their photo essays. She could wear silver and gold and throw parties full of song and dance with her singer-friends and her dancer-friends. Whatever she desired she could go after it, and not look back.
But to what end?
She looked at her hands. And thought of all that they had seen and done. All the books that they had touched to turn the pages of, the notes that they had written, reports that they had typed, the opening and closing of doors to home, work, school, buses, cars, stores.
She thought of the time when she was six years old and she touched her finger to a light bulb and it burned her, and her mother told her, do not touch that! Do not touch the light, the iron, the stove. They always burn! They’ll always burn your skin.
She felt crazy. She felt tired, like running too hard to grasp at the wind.
The windows weren’t broken. They were intact, six square panes through which the sun bled across the floor and fell into her hands. The light tinted her brown hands golden. It was beautiful. And the soft tip of her finger fell away from that shelf of words. No more reaching.
She cried, for the warmth that she felt. And the cold she couldn’t shake, knowing there was nothing she could have, she couldn’t lose in one red moment.
— Cheyenne Varner, Eighteen Women.