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I was born under rather unusual circumstances; brought to life beneath a soft, lonely hand. She dipped her paintbrush into a rosy pink, the color in common of sunrise and sunset. At first I was just the slippers, little baby shoes, freshly satined and unscuffed. Above she painted my checkered frock, and on top my sun hat with the little ribbon that tied so neatly beneath my hair. Her hands would pause occasionally as she stared out into the distance of fond remembrance, but she knew me by heart and her strokes were sadly certain. Every night those wrinkled hands would smooth the little slippers, and the frock, and the hat; each rosy pink and mummified in tissue paper in a cedar drawer at home. I was the first to wear them, and even then only the painted version. She filled in my legs dancing, and my hand reaching out, and my face with a little button nose staring off towards my fingertips.
I thought I was finished then, and I would have closed my eyes if I could, because there was nothing particularly interesting about my fingers. But then the paintbrush returned, trailing lines as rosy as my own, and that’s how I knew what a pretty color I was. A jacket sprang up, and shorts with socks and shoes at the end. Warm fingers were painted next to mine, and bright pink eyes met my curious gaze. A boy! And a friend. A boy-friend, then. Perhaps a boyfriend? I knew instantly that we had chemistry. If only we could move, or at least talk --
“Hi there,” I would have said, my voice cracking slightly with newness.
The boy was a little shy. “Hi,” he would respond, but I'd have to ask him to repeat himself because he was so hard to hear.
“Hi,” he'd say again.
“What's your name,” I would ask – or maybe I'd tell him mine first. My name? Sunny – “I'm Sunny,” I would have said. And then (the more natural follow-up): “what's your name?”
“Goose,” he would tell me. “Hi, Sunny”.
“Hi”. My voice had by then relaxed into natural tones, soft like the gentle humming of the earth.
That's all we said for then. There wasn't a lot to talk about when all we could see was each other's eyes. So we just smiled at each other as we sat on the shelf, feeling with wonder as our outlines hardened against the wet clay. Slowly the light shrank from the room, and the sun set in my peripheral vision, until eventually we faded into the sky, and then the darkness, and it didn't matter that I could only look into Goose's eyes because there was nothing else to see anywhere. My only sensation was in that spot where our fingertips met; his fingers my compass in the night.
She returned the following day, this time to gently lift her masterpiece – us, I mean – off the shelf. Goose and I, and our small clay world, were carried over into a closet somewhere, and abandoned. I was grateful for the privacy, but then a clang sounded overhead and the light was suddenly exiled, and I realized that we were in an oven. Such was the inevitable fate of recently painted pots.
Slowly the place began to heat up, finally getting so hot that I felt as if my lines were melting and exploding all at the same time. I pulled backwards into my clay, and Goose did too. I could see the worry in his eyes, and the fear that we would just melt away, and I tried to smile for him. Deep in my brushstroke body, I sensed something stretching and solidifying. The heat suddenly seemed an extension of me and I felt myself become more, warm inside like people are. I imagined that this was what a first kiss felt like -- like swallowing a star to breathe fire.
Eventually, the heat faded and the light returned. Goose's hand was baked into mine and I could tell it wouldn't be going anywhere for a while. It would have been so much easier if we had had mobile mouths. “It's cold in here”, I would joke, and we'd laugh -- me, high and a little squeaky; he low and stuttering like a reluctant motor. Silence fell, just a little bit awkward. I wished I could look away for just a second, to break the intensity of our eye-contact; scratch the back of my neck or wipe my palms against my frock.
“At least your palm's not so damp anymore”, I’d tell him, a weak joke to break the ice. “Yours either”, he would say. of course you’d have thought that we were just a painting on a pot, for we made no sound. But we were looking into each other's eyes and we were painted the same shade of rosy pink, and we said so much more in only a few moments than you could ever hear (well, perhaps not you, but most like you).
She carried us home that night, to a place with the kind of warm light cast by wax candles and incandescent bulbs. Soft music from long before you were born played, vibrating gently through the jar and through me. Music is like motion to me (that's why hip-hop is such a great invention; it sounds like skipping). But this was soft music, like a cool breeze on a hot day skirting the surface of my skin. I imagined my rosy hair billowing slightly, and the hem of my dress fluttering as model’s do in magazines. I could tell that Goose noticed. His eye was caught and he wouldn’t have looked away even if he could. “You look beautiful”, he'd say. “You're not so bad yourself”, I'd tease. And he wasn't. I loved the rosy flush of his cheeks, his winking smile, the sincerity twinkling in his eyes. The way the music ruffled his hair and smoothed it again.
We spent a long time on the shelf, just like that. Every morning, soft hands would carefully lift us down and dust us off. Sometimes a crooning, creaking voice would call me “dearie” and whisper that I looked just like poor little Rosie would have. “She’d be running now. And dancing. She was always a kicker”. I was set down while she sighed, rubbed her belly, blew her nose. Over time her hands got shakier, and after a while only the cleaning woman would dust me off. Still the ancient voice kept on, rattling off stories that always started with “when I was just a girl” and then went on forever.
And all this time, Goose and I danced on our shelf. I suppose we were falling in love, because I know that we were firmly in love by the end of those blissful days. Or maybe finding love would be a better term, because there was no falling; he was always there and life was as solid as his hand in mine...did I mention how beautiful his eyes were? Infinite mosaics of pinks and whites and they were all I saw and they were the whole world.
I asked him once how my hair looked. “I can't see it, you know, only feel it,” I explained, and blushed just a shade pinker. “It's lovely,” he told me. “Just like sunshine on water, or those rose petals that rain around us on Sunday afternoons in summer. Only, more nice --” I think he turned rosy, too. “I mean, I love it?” he finished weakly, and I laughed because I hardly knew what to say.
Like all paintings, we knew we would live forever and never get older or uglier, but people would, and then they die. So the old lady stopped breathing one day. Goose and I sat on our shelf together and gathered dust. It was silent in the house, and the music never played, and the light was all cold and hard coming in from the upper windows, and at night it was black as starless space.
At some point, people arrived and grabbed us off the shelf, then shoved us into a box and shipped us off. With the flaps closed over my head, total darkness descended -- so dark I forgot what light looks like. I forgot most other things, too; my thoughts drifted away, and even Goose seemed distant. As my thoughts faded into echoes of whispers, so did she pass into the past, clothed in her best dress which she had saved for the occasion. Her fingers, no longer so supple, still clutched at the clothing only Goose and I wore...but you are young and cannot comprehend how people may pass like hours; come, gone, forgotten.
We were grabbed back out into some dim room with grey lighting and moist air that made me feel sloppy and gross. "Are you okay?" I asked Goose. "I'm fine now," he told me with something approaching a wink. "You?"
"Much better seeing you," I admitted. "But I hope we don't have to stay here long. Pity about the old lady, too", I said, and he agreed with me about that. Goose was always such a sympathetic person. He would have made a good father, and a good husband. If only...but that is irrelevant.
Soon enough, we were taken out of that gross damp place and we traveled far away, down towards the coast. I could hear the seagulls and smell the salt on the air, but I never saw the sea. I supposed it must be sweaty on the surface and sticky, thick like paint beneath.
The people who housed us by the sea were funny. Every Sunday we'd be relocated and rearranged, but the rooms all felt just about the same. Every one was cold and sterile, more like a picture in a furniture catalog than a home. The woman's hands carrying us around were nervous and fidgety, constantly threatening to drop us. She spoke in short bursts and her voice was hysterically high-pitched, a sound like biting ice, and her fingers were tight in constant motion.
“Goose,” I would say to him, “Goose, what if we fall? What if she drops us?” He was always cool. I remember he said, “if we fall, we fall together”. Isn't that wonderfully romantic? I believed him with all my heart. I had a heart, you know. It never pumped blood or beat fast, but I had one, and it hung suspended in the blank ceramic space between Goose and me.
Then one day it happened. I’ve spent ages thinking about that moment, re-hashing it over and over until I’m surprised it hasn’t worn itself into my clay. It happened because the lady was nervous, because she worked just as hard even though she never got paid and she never got thanked neither, and he didn't love her, why didn’t he love her anymore, had he ever loved her or was he just a rich bastard who thought he could keep her forever in this stupid castle by the sea and don’t walk away don’t even think about it if you try to leave she'll kill you! And then we were flying, the air rushing by so unbelievably fast, and when gravity reclaimed us we fell.
In an instant, my round world grew edges. Edges that felt the strange sensation of hot tears and flesh parting over them because they were sharp, and I was stained by the foreign blood that scabbed on my left slipper. I looked over at Goose to ask him, what happened, and – he was gone. Only edges. I hated my too-sharp edges.
I can barely remember what happened next. I remember thinking, over and over again, if we fall. If we fall we fall together. Together. Then there was wetness, and I sank into the sea.
The sea did strange things to me. Its wetness – it's wet as anything, wetter than everything, really – seeped into me and rubbed away a bit of who I was. I could still feel Goose's fingers in my own, though, and if I strained I could just barely hear him. His voice was like the whales; I felt it vibrate but somehow the words meant nothing. “Darkness, sunny day deep, glugmph-ooo, time, so bright, clack, clack, clack, CLACK”. A huge shock of sound, and then nothing. “Goose,” I called out. “Goose, where are you. Goose I need you”. “Mmmmhprrr, glugggyy glammmppuu,” the waves returned. I’ve heard that salt water makes up the ocean, and also makes up tears.
I let go then. I let the creeping blueness sand down even the edges of my mind. The sea was rough but she was gentle, like being tossed around inside a huge fluffy blanket. I was among the kelp decaying on the seafloor. I softened, slowly, and drifted away from myself…
The first thing I noticed was the warmth of the sun. The vast blueness of the the sky loomed before my eyes, and my thoughts came creeping back as the sun baked the sea from me. Goose. We did not fall together. We fell apart. He was maddeningly gone, no longer hovering on the edge of my conscious, except in the strangely carven tunnels of my memory. Most of my edges were gone. My lines had bled.
A hand grabbed me up (it was yours); a small hand whose sticky fingers closed around me. My world is small enough, now, to fit in your palm. I don't worry about falling from this hand, which is always close enough to the ground to pick me back up in one piece. You toddled over to your mother, and I heard a wet sound like clams prying themselves open to peer around. Was that your mother kissing you? I've never been kissed. Goose and I thought about it but things like kissing are so terribly difficult when you're painted in place.
You showed me to your mother. “Look who I found! Can I keep her?” you asked.
A large blue eye, only partially obscured by glasses, approached. “That's funny. I saw a dress just like that on display – you remember that museum in Baltimore?”
“Yeah,” you said, but you weren't listening. “What do you think her name is?”
“I don't know. Why don't you ask her?”
I tried to tell you without speaking, but you peered up at the sky instead. “Sunny,” you announced. It was the first time anybody said my name out loud. “Where did you come from, Sunny?” you whispered.
Now you know. Can I call you Goose? Thank you.
Goose kisses me with her fuzzy young lips, a flutter on my clay skin. From between her fingers, I watch the world swinging by.