twisting back toward Annabelle’s face as he fell. “You? How?”
Annabelle’s hand gripped the handle like it would throw the knife overhand into him. He recoiled and scrambled up the stairs, a trail of blood following him. Annabelle’s legs backed up and out the door, and Annabelle’s feet carried her again to my apartment, to my bathroom.
I was so, so sorry that night. But eventually the boyfriend moved out. And women started to visit Annabelle and ask for advice. For Annabelle, the night itself would always be fuzzy. She had felt out of her mind and had no memory of leaving my apartment, much less of attacking him. She did not know where she got the knife. All she remembered was looking at me.
According to the legends, I should be able to switch with animals, but I’ve never been able to do that. The first time I was conscious of switching was in kindergarten. Annabelle’s brother was making a mound in the sandbox. He said it was a volcano. I wanted to help, because he wasn’t doing it right and I told him I could fix it. The sides were crumbling, but instead of just patting the sand to firm up the mound, I kept trying to brush off the bumpy parts, and I kept on brushing and brushing. “You’re gonna knock it down, go away,” he had told me, and a little blonde girl next to him nodded. So I went away to cry in the corner with the baby dolls, who stared at me with vacant eyes. I decided I wanted more than anything to be one of those dolls. I wanted a still, porcelain face that couldn’t crumple or frown or form a mouth into anything hateful, anything at all.
The teacher’s aide came up to me. Annabelle’s brother wanted to apologize, she said, though I can’t remember how exactly she strung the words together. I turned toward her, away from the dolls, and looked into big brown eyes rimmed with makeup. I wanted to be far away, and suddenly I was, apart, looking back into my own teary face, which was red as a ladybug. I had felt sorry for my little face. I looked so sad. I moved a hand, a big brown hand, to comfort my little body, and my face became startled. My eyes rolled around the room. I made the aide’s hand wrap around my little shoulder and pull me into a hug against a ratty green sweater. The wool was rough, but I couldn’t feel it against my own cheek, because I was mercifully, wonderfully, no longer connected to that face. I breathed in the scent of baby shampoo coming off my hair, and for the first time, I realized how soft I was, how small, how precious. I was deeply comforted by this view of myself.
S.M. Knisely | 17