My dreams fill with mountain rivers: mud screaming down mountain steeps, trees ripping out of the earth. That hurricane swept down our valley, swallowed up the mountain, red water running, pulling up trees, shaking out boulders.

Here, things cycle together in a patchwork of chaos and harmony. But that is the way of the mountains.


I've seen the United States, a whole network of cities laid out on the back of the southwest airline napkins, but those mountains still caught my breath each time I went.

Every summer since I was eight months old, we'd head up to the mountains in upstate New York, those Adirondacks, and I knew they had to be something special.

We'd live up on that mountainside in Mother's fancy New York family cabin. All wood and timber with great big red shutters and doors. Three whole stories to fit all the Renz's, a full household with six sets of uncles and aunts and a whole slew of cousins. The house was always full of the Renz family clan, or rather, the "Keene Valley Racket club," which was engraved above the mantle in the dining room.

The little stream, John's brook, ran in front of the cabin down the mountain, and under the bridge before it looped all the way back up through our backyard. The house was always filled with the sound of running water, always moving, always present. It sounded like rain, like waterfalls, strong currents, power. I listened to that water every night while falling asleep. I listened and let it lull me into a calm that my restless little body rarely achieved. The sound of the water coursed through me like the very blood in my veins. White skin nothing more than translucent film overlaying the capillaries that mapped out my torso, pale indigo rivulets across white floodplain.

Me and the twinslooked forward to that mountain trip every summer. Sometimes we'd stay a whole month and we'd pick up Father from Albany when he got time off. We spent most that time running through the forest, following John's brook as far as our legs would take us. The twins and I grew close to that mountainside. Real close to that cold mountain water. After long hikes on one of the high peaks we'd go to the bridge down the street to freeze our sore muscles in our little brook. We'd get nice and cold and clean before running back up the hill for a hot bath in the old claw-footed tub.

We loved those mountains. Enough to burry grandpa down in the valley. And then brother three years later.

I can't think of anywhere else I'd want to lie down and rest.

They say that whole cemetery was bought up by the Renz family. After brother was laid into the valley soil, everyone else wanted some real estate too.


Ten years later and here we stand: I at my window, watching water pane down glass, wind lean into trees. Hurricane Irene has made it to Providence. Sister, somewhere, a new freshman at a technical college in Massachusetts, perhaps watching the course of the storm, but perhaps not. Mother and Father in yellow raincoats in Keene Valley, watching as the brook courses through the forest. They walk down the hill to see whole trees slam into the bridge, water stream overtop of the road, filling the valley basin with angry mud colored waves.


The town was drowning. The air filled with the thunder of earthen crust sliding down the mountains.

Father calls me to say the river grew some forty feet across. I could see it clearly as he holds up the phone to the river, the rumbling current filling my head with image, coursing into my blood through the receiver.

It's been ten years since we lay brother into the valley.

I lean back into my desk chair and study the raindrops sliding down my own window, as mother details the slow demolition of the Johns Brook bridge, slammed with giant pine trees like nature's primitive battering ram. I wonder how brother is minding the flood.

But I know how the mountainside will fare the next day. Sure, there will be roads turned into tiny islands of pavement, still muddy pools will collect. But traces of hurricane dew will linger, mist will hang in the valley air, cling to particles of light. The beams will fade in and out with the clouds. My family will fall asleep in small rooms inside a big house hidden on a mountain. Wake up alive. River in our heads. Tracking the seasons, rising and shouting after winter. Ice and mountain melting, brown current. Pine hung breeze. Ancient trees shielding saplings. Brother fixed forever on the hill, watching the mountain valley in the still of winter. Rest.


Cold soil. The earth. That stillness found in nighttime memory. Dreaming through moments that stretch into years, that bend the whole of time. That surround and isolate, that corner until it is just you and those seconds left.


August, Maine, the end of a young family's vacation.

Sister saw the blood first. But I saw the crumpled skull before she. Brother was killed instantly in an antique elevator. Crushed to death in seconds.

There was a trial. This too: Money, Greed, Blood. And hundreds of others.

The cold thrum of fear wavering, a fluttering heartbeat. Then cold understanding. For there's profit in murder.


They tell me that our pain is different. Sister's is more vital, more present, cutting her deeper, registering her immobile, prisoner. I cannot know her pain.

All I remember is this: rocking myself into slow catatonic trance, losing hours, whole days to the numb I craved. Sister's friends and family pouring into her open door across from mine, which was always locked shut. Generic cards and generic flowers and generic teddy bears across every surface of her bedroom floor, desk, and dresser. Sitting on my roof and wondering if I could ever feel again.

I told my old friends that I did not like them anymore. I don't remember if this was true.

Sister stayed on her gymnastics team, surrounded by her friends for hours every day. Innumerable hugs, hearing those empty meaningless word's "I'm so sorry."

I spoke to no one. I looked at no one. I spent all my time reading alone until dawn. Flashlight under tented sheets.

Sometimes I counted the shooting stars I hallucinated. I could see them in the corner of my eye, but could never look them head on.


In my dream I stand by the river with my sister. She wants to take a picture. My hair is long again. I wade out into the river. Trees cast cold shadows on dark water. I point downstream, move into the sun.

Shimmering copper strands cascading down narrow shoulders. A canopy of phosphorescent glow. Gold comes in view at the edge of the treeline.

The current is strong. Sister is caught, dragged downstream. She drops the camera.

Then I'm swimming after her. Dipping into cold water. Resistance and a pair of clear eyes stare back at me with new vacancies.


They tell us that when a one twin's heart ceases beating, the one left behind empties out. The act of being alive now treacherous, now cheating. The outcome had been random and crude, could have been sister just as easily. Could have been me. Minds will wonder, moments switched perhaps, alternate fates imagined where one of us could have taken the fall instead.

The doctors will name this for us, twin guilt.

To lose the baseline, whereby to turn.What other beat is there to weave and manipulate through. I can pull her to my chest, stroke her hair as she rests against me. I can try and fill the gaps, but failure will always haunt me. We will never be on that same beat. I will never be sufficient.


Sister would compete in gymnastics meets every weekend, same as before. Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandparents, all would drive for hours just to see her. We were both bitter. Both of us knew that we were somehow damaged. That we no longer fit into the world we used to know.

Once a week our mother would put us in the car and drive us to a lady who would try to make us speak. Her house was so big and clean. There was a green yoga ball that my sister and I fought over. It was our favorite chair. Sister usually won. She had always been cuter. We both refused to speak, but I would draw pictures. Pictures of brother with big loopy crayon haloes. He was dead. We both knew that.

It took me a year to start talking again. To start looking people in the eye. Those interactions still seem heavy, weighted, the easy breath of words sucked down into careful thoughts that real and rattle in my skull.


Disgust. Involuntary narrowed eyes. Clenched fists. Suck in a cheek and bite down to something familiar and metallic. Hate is not something a ten year old should be filled with. But then budgets should not be filled with blood.

I was hollow, slowly cold brewing in hatred. Could this have protected me? What saved me? Where was sister's blame?

I started pushing after that. A constant pressure to pass through without regard for where. I will always consider myself a survivor. I don't remember much. I know nothing of my sister's mind, then and now. What is the difference between a survivor and a victim? How do you get from point A to point B?

We are entirely separate pieces. There are no corners to meet, we live in parallel. My sister was background for so long. Never really home.

My world was a patchwork of silence, and hers? Muted voices? White noise?

I was right there, busy deconstructing the world in my head, while she started picking at the threads she had been left with. Pulling at the seams till the pieces gaped and separated, until there was nothing coherent left for her to recognize, left for me to recognize. Where is my sister?

I am not to spill her secrets. I am not to say a word. What happens when secrets are not yours to tell?

It's four years of the same cycle, the pulling of thread, the slow slip towards the edge.

I am foolishly impatient. I myself have yet to get "over it". I don't know if I ever will. They call it, complicated morning. The incapability of reconciling with things that never should have happened. There's nothing really left to resolve. But at least I can still live.


In my dream sister doesn't want me to pull her back to shore.

I gather her body in my arms anyway. She is leaden, lifeless. I strain to keep afloat.

The water is cold. I clutch at my sister, taking careful steps, holding her against my heaving chest. I slip on slick moss and the river swallows us whole.

I am sinking. Sister's weight pulls me down faster into dark water. It's all slow motion. I lose my grasp on her body. Surface. Gasp. Restless, fading.

It is almost dusk now. I stand on the shore, dripping wet, teeth chattering. I don't remember what happened.

I lift my head to the riverside opposite. There is a tiny house on the other side of the river with pink window boxes that hang over rushing water. And there sister stands, staring back at me. White noise.



With new spaces, histories tend to feel like secrets, or rather, skeletons for us. These aren't things one can bring up in casual social settings. The talk of slowly unwinding and winding yourself apart and together again. Of disappearing into your skull to be cradled and captured by a gaping and hollow numbness.

I remember that. The steady isolation, from moments when every thought was static, and I fell mute trying to piece together words.

I remember that I picked up my pen and I started writing. I remember I didn't stop until I was finished. I am still writing. I will never have to lie in ink, I promised.

Which is better? To be a continuous spurt of inky memories, to gorge yourself on a page to everyone and to no one. To throw your weighted memories into the heads of others without mercy. To cover their vision with your own, to drown everything else out.

Or is it better to hide your world so that no one else will have to see it? To pull on your own fraying edges until everything goes numb? Until everything is still?


I am grafted, regenerated. Like rain meeting river. Collision. The current strong, driving forward and mixing together, until river and rain coalesce to flood, to restore.

Is this weakness? I sit breathing, writing. I am okay.

Maybe I escaped. But how? And what of my sister?

We had just been hollowed versions.

I will not admit control. I will always seek it.


I have found stillness, yet in it I remain solitary. From that silent shell, my sister stares back at me, trembling.

I am powerless. My hands are numb. I walk forward blindly in a world where no one sees the fall until the shatter, the trajectory slow and precise in the after.

Sister's eyes submerge in pink flush, reflections refract across dark water.

Will I always flinch in the shatter? Look back to watch with pitted understanding, as each one slips away from my fingers?

I will always think of the brook. The tiny stream filled with everything lost, with everything found. The strength that tore down century old trees.

Some things can never be lost forever.

Some things will never be forgotten.


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