“And the Everything” by Carolyn Zaikowski
Author’s note: “And The Everything” is an excerpt from the novel A Child Is Being Killed, published by Aqueous Books in 2013. In A Child Is Being Killed, a teenage girl named Shrap is sold into sex slavery by her father in exchange for a business. In this excerpt, as she sits trapped in her attic room, Shrap ruminates about her secret lover, Consuelo.
AND THE EVERYTHING
Consuelo, when my hair fell out in a dream, I imagined you there. I didn’t know who you were yet. I imagined you told me I was a warrior. That I didn’t need anything to make me beautiful, that I did not need anybody to give me a body because I already had one. I imagined you told me this: We can be the warmest creatures in the world. Or maybe we will just be one creature. You said, maybe we’ll be the journals I dreamt I mailed from Calcutta to London, the ones that got lost somewhere at sea, or maybe you are the one line from Frankenstein that I swore I wrote down and folded, or maybe you are the thirty years, the forty years, the fifty years that might never be mine. How do you sit still at night when you know my father exists? I smoke an imaginary cigarette with my fake mouth. You point at yourself and say, it’s me, this is me. And that’s you, you’re you, you exist. I say: I don’t understand, but I trust you. You repeat: You exist. I imagine your heart is shaped like a triangle. Or better, a parallelogram. Even better, a shapeless mass. When she sees Consuelo and I, my mother dances towards me, singing, And the dog will live! And the everything, and the everything. And the everything will be had in its all.
Shrap knows, from when she used to read a lot, back when her books were not burnt, that energy and matter are the same thing, and she doesn’t know how to touch either of them. At night this drives her insane. She ruminates about what she will say to all the men: You aren’t touching me, even if you think you are. You’re just a cache of lonely pronouns. I, on the other hand, am universes; I am an entire secret name; I am said. At night Shrap moves her white chair to pretend she is near Consuelo. Observation always changes what’s being observed, Shrap says out loud. Objects can be in multiple positions simultaneously. The universe is wrinkled. 2010 AD and 11 BC could be touching each other at some layer of time-space, so everything’s fine. Murder is not to body what rape is to soul; now I know, Shrap says to herself: I have decided it was me who wrote you those letters, Consuelo; I wrote them in the future, so we don’t remember them yet.
The universe is a fetus, soggy and unborn. You’re a fetus too, Shrap, for you were never really born. You are ugly, Shrap tells herself. Everyone knows it. Remove that bloody stain. Cut that cord. You already have diseases and you aren’t even born yet! She hears her mother’s voice, but it is caught between two echoes and a jail: Like everything, it doesn’t matter. Go forward. Have a girl child and name her Joe. Send her to a private land where she learns about science by eating blueberries, by climbing oak trees and falling madly in love with elephants. Send her to the place where clocks are made and have her eat one. Then she’ll understand time. Penetrate the universe with her. Make a list of things that want to be alive—later, when you have paper.
Carolyn Zaikowski is the author of the novel A Child Is Being Killed (Aqueous Books, 2013). Her poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in Pank, The Rumpus, Eleven Eleven Journal, Sententia, 1913: A Journal of Forms, Nebula: A Journal of Multidisciplinary Scholarship, Everyday Genius, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Naropa University. She can be found at www.liferoar.wordpress.com.