I sat down to write a response to Evie Wild’s book Everything Is Teeth and the book barely surfaces. This became an essay about other things, but in a way, that’s my favorite kind of reaction essay. Something that becomes a seed for a different plant. I think this means that I liked the book.
Everything Is Teeth.
I can’t remember anything from when I was six. I don’t know what books I loved, what I was obsessed with. Time when I was young is one big chunk. I was young, then I wasn’t. I know that my mother created worlds for us– she read The Boxcar Children and Roald Dahl and enough sailing adventures of Arthur Ransome that I thought, years later, that I knew the feeling of a boat beneath my feet and it was only when a friend asked “when?” that I questioned my memory.
Memory is a faulty machine. I remember rain and green vines and my aunt from my vantage point at her knees, holding an umbrella above us. Stomping on mushrooms that puffed spores in to the forest. I don’t know if there was really an umbrella. I don’t remember anything before or after. Just rain, mushrooms, spores and my aunt.
With an adults perspective and a map, I can gather that we were on the Olympic peninsula. I can ask my aunt about the specifics, because I live here now, this place of first memory, a few miles from the very aunt that I can remember in laughter and shoes.
My brother swears he remembers the trip to Seattle. That he remembers sitting in a truck, pushing all the buttons. He was younger than me, still in diapers, barely a toddler, and he remembers this. Or he’s heard the story so many times and seen the photographs he has created this memory. The mind is powerful, we can create and destroy and convince ourselves our version is the right version. If only this were limited to sitting in a truck, pushing buttons.
How strange, when my mom and dad were separating, that he came back from seeing his brother with gifts for all of us. He rode horses and picked out earrings and left them on the ironing board. Why didn’t he hand them to her, why did he leave them on a place tied to chores and domesticity? I still love the earrings he gave me, even though one has broken. I treasure everything my father gave me. It doesn’t matter why. But the child never asks why something is the way it is. Shifts happen and there is a powerlessness to it. So you adapt.
What happens to the brother? Why is he bleeding and what happens to the family because of it? To a child, it is just the new reality. She questions briefly and then brings another shark story as a gift.
Maybe I just wasn’t as precocious as a child. A little shark wielding tooth wielding child. I was half of a unit, I had my twin sister by my side. What world did we create without even knowing? We never created our own language, we were never inseparable like some twins, going mute in public, becoming two parts of a whole that could not stand on her own. The older I get the more I realize how present a twin is. How there is never a question of thereness. And this terrifies me. I read stories of twinless twins, I burst in to tears when asked : Is your twin a) living b) deceased c) unknown. To be that far apart, to be uncertain whether or not she lived. Move on, do not investigate this any deeper.
There is a new moon tonight– a gaping sky. In class our yoga teacher tells us– there is a shift, have you felt it? The sky agape. A word that means mouth open, also selfless love. As we sit, teeth swim through me. Sutures tearing slightly open. Hands in fire mudras, burning creation. Memory is fallible, memory can be recreated. What I once looked at with tinges of heartbreak I can see with a different clarity. Cauterize and move on. Some people are not capable of understanding words have duplicity, meaning floats on the surface. The mouth hingeing open, the sky empty.
An attack becomes about sustenance, about self preservation. A shark moving in for fish at a weight belt, not for the man. He is a bystander, he got in the way. This doesn’t undo the damage. Intentions are irrelevant, but you can learn to be in a different place. To be cautious with movement.
In a memoir, there is no clean conclusion. It reminds me of the short stories from the magazine Story. All slice of life. As a reader they left me feeling raw, uncertain. Now I gravitate to this style. A death in the periphery, something that changes the story but is never in focus. The car driving away and the dishwasher that continues to churn while she sits at window, watching the mailman. No answers, nothing concluded. A slightly polished mirror held up– this is us, our world, and not everything will be explained. Take it.