Amy Souza and Jenny Forrester

Amy Souza

Jenny Forrester
Inspiration piece

My brother and I loved Johnny Cash, singing Ring of Fire. Loud. Over and over.

It’s decades later now. We grew apart in galacticly-spaced ways.

Then I get divorced, come home to Colorado.

My brother sends me a text, “Come to Wyatt’s wedding tomorrow.” Wyatt, his youngest son.

My daughter doesn’t go with. We know they won’t be wearing masks or social distancing because we know them. She can’t get sick. So much going on. I risk it. What do I have to lose now really?

At the wedding, I wear a neck scarf that can serve as a mask, but can seem decorative, a fashion choice. I’m going to mind my manners, meaning, I’m going to not be too in-your-unmasked-face with my mask.

I park my Prius among many big trucks. Brian drives in, parks his big truck.

No masks. No social distancing.

The people there were characters in my first memoir. None of us discuss it.

Brian’s wife’s family is huge. Her mother says to me, “You have to be in the photos because you’re all he’s got.”

That’s how they see us. It’s also true in a factual kind of way.

I answer fast with, “We don’t think of it that way. We’ve got the whole world,” and Brian nods, smiles and says, “Yeah, that’s true.”

Brian’s wife’s mother also wants me to be in the photos because so she can her big body behind my big body. I breathe in meditation mantras. Breathe out empathy. But my brain is buzzing, and I’m sweating. Farm metaphors come to mind, my writer’s mind taking notes.

Brian’s still got his fu-man-chu mustache. They all hug me. I haven’t been hugged in months. They’re still trying to save me. They speak to me of their god. I think about how I might meet Him considering the potential virus exposure. They say, “The pastor said, ‘Do we trust God or not?’” They talk in adoration about a young man who will refuse to go anywhere that he’s forced to wear a mask. They speak highly of young conservative politicians, paving the mask-free, freedom-loving, abortion-stopping future.

I breathe in. Breathe out, knowing the internet of My People would tell me my silence will not protect me and that would be the kindest thing the internet of My People would say about me today.

Also, I think, everyone, really, can fuck off.

I breathe in. Breathe out.

My mother would be proud of me finally.

Brian and I talk like we used to in the spaces between his duties as father of the groom. So kind. Letting me tag along. My brother is funny, the funniest person on earth. He is.

I meet the groom. My nephew, wearing a red tuxedo, kind and polite. Hugs me, thanks me for being there. He is utterly appropriate.

My nephew marries a woman who says she’s luckier than she deserves. They cry. Everyone cries. I cry. It’s sweet. Beautiful. Mountains encircle the valley of Focus on the Family.

In my meditative reverie, all that swirling conflict, the adrenaline. My silence is a high.

I hear Johnny Cash. We’re falling in still to that burning ring of fire.

My brother, so proud and happy, says, “I love you,” and I say it back.

I want you to know this, too. My brother is thin. I think, Cancer.

He invites me the next day after the wedding to go up to a campground near Leadville where their RV is parked.

We sit around a campfire near the highest point in Colorado. I burn all my Amazon boxes. We burn the dry needles within a twenty foot radius. We run out of fuel to burn. He throws in plastic containers. I turn to stress-babbling, my savior, explaining dioxins and carcinogens. His wife agrees with me for the first time since she married Brian about twenty-five years ago. She says, “Yeah, let’s avoid that.”

Brian says, “I’m not afraid,” throws more plastic in our fire.

I know the way he looks at me when he says, “I’m not afraid.” I’m jealous he’ll see our mother first.

I give him a loving smile. I say I won’t write about him anymore. I say, “I just want to be your sister now.” The writer in my mind puts her pen down, unfurls her wings, flies away.

Some weeks later, he sends me a text. They’re going to do disaster recovery in Louisiana. They repair and build homes after hurricanes. He types, “Good thing about people in Louisiana. They have more important things to worry about than a virus.” I don’t respond.

The writer of my mind returns to my mind, her pen in her talons, lands on my shoulder, says our silence will not protect us or anyone else. She’s such a pedantic bitch sometimes. She bugs me as much as the Internet of My Assumption-Making, Projecting, Narrative-Wielding, Social-Positioning People. She calls me a liar for lying to Brian. We get to work.

I write and think about disaster recovery without masks and churches and food lines and the industrial complex of everything, metaphorical small pox blankets everywhere.

The first book of my truth was going to save us, make him see. The second was dedicated to seeking the Source of strength to manage betrayal by my own people, the solitude of my quest. The third will be something else, but I know there’ll be a chapter about my brother and I as sibling birds. We hang out in the thermals, high above the mountains of the Valley of Dismantled Anthropocene. No one can separate us, no fire can reach us.

We feast on blood and bone and new moon starry nights. We’re free above the fires. We feast on the eyes of God.


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