A string of prayer flags hang outside the house across the street. Squares of yellow, blue, white, and red flap and fray in the winter wind, bright against the brown of the house, the gray of the sky. I know these neighbors only a little. They are a far-flung couple, always traveling. He is taller then I ever think possible. She is quiet. Their flags say more, strung from the side of the house like that, extending over to the corner of the carport, supporting the roof in ways it never thought it needed. It's a banner I notice every day.
My mother tells me this story -- when I was a small child, she would sometimes go into my room late at night and gather me up, for no other reason than to snuggle. During the day, closeness was not something I craved, or from what it sounds like, tolerated all that much. So she held me while I slept, unaware.
I have an edge. I can feel it. A boundary that separates the self from everything else. Me from the ether. It's permeable, though, and when the conditions are right I can spread out, first like a dollop of pancake batter but instead of cooking into something more solid I liquify even more, becoming thinner and even separating until I'm a series of shadowy pools, not shallow but each deeper than the ocean. When it's time for me to collect myself, I inhale with slow suction, gathering everything through my mouth until I am filled back up. Even more than before.
They often roll out of bed and right back into whatever they were doing last night, whatever it was that they dreamed about. I greet them with a groggy voice. Make breakfast with sleep seared eyes. Not quite here.
He always hugs them.
I usually don't. I mean, sometimes I do. But not always.
Why not? I don't know. I just don't. I don't know why. I just don't.
They're asleep. No one is talking to me. I'm silent and folded inside, gathered up and here, the whole ocean sloshing in my stomach.
My eyes are closed but I can see the cords, the ones that are always there but invisible in the daylight, strung from me to them, them to me, each to the other. A web that stretches with distance. I sit here and fortify those lines, a spinster late in the night, working not with string
but with light.