A journal of narrative writing.

I have scraped all of the white pieces into a neat pile. They are not entirely white, but specked with the edges and streaks of other shapes. They will make the border. I have to play the music this loud because I will be scared if it's quiet; I can hear the speakers straining against the volume. I press the face of a dog beneath an empty beret, clicking the glossy pieces into one another. I hate the feel of exposed cardboard on the back so I try to slide each piece against the floor, guiding it over the hardwood tiles, until it is as close as possible to its match. It's supposed to be ironic how the dogs in berets are looking at sculptures of bones but it turns out, according to the shiny box-top promise, to be the kind of thing you might get for someone who likes dogs. The ones that I have finished are strewn like postcards all over the apartment. I step over them to change the songs, or sometimes to hit 'repeat' on the stereo but only if my brother is not home. When it starts to get dark I run around pressing and turning anything that will make light, even in the rooms where I am not apt to be found - my parents' bedroom, the linen closet. Each room glows with varying wattage and some buzz in the fluorescent way that the hospital buzzes but I can't hear it because of the music. I shake more pieces out of the box.

She stole these pants once, the ones that I'm wearing. We don't call it stealing because we shared a room, but in any case she had them and hid them from me when they were mine. Palazzo pants is what they're really called, and I got them right before my birthday along with the terry-cloth t-shirt that I am also wearing that makes it look like I have breasts. The pants are navy with white stripes and I press my fingers into the stripes to see how much my thigh will give. This, of course, is all happening under the table. If I tilt my head a little I can see her shoe which is a navy clog with brass studs around it. My mother has brought oatmeal cookies and matzoh brie in big Tupperware containers but no one eats anything except for Mickey who has one cookie and then snaps the lid shut. When she stole my pants I found them in the drawer under her bed that is no longer in the room we shared. There were two drawers side by side and I found them stuffed into the one on the left side behind pajama tops and bathing suits yet to be worn. There was a little tear on the leg of the pants, along one of the stripes, where they had dragged under her shoe because she is shorter than I am. I reach down and feel that spot, now, on the back of my calf that would have been her ankle and where, plastic cup of tequila in hand, my mother sewed the chopped hole shut. There is a nurse standing in the corner of the room and she doesn't look up or say anything. The thin chain around her neck is stuck to the tiny hairs on her neck, or maybe to her stiff hospital collar. I feel like fixing it or telling her. It seems like we should all be letting it all out, since we're here.

Lying like this for too long will make my ribs hurt terribly. I will have imprints, later, on the semi-soft covering of those bones that is becoming more complicated now that I am twelve. I lean to the left on one arm and use the other to spread the pieces around the floor. This one is too easy and is finished very quickly to reveal one-hundred-and-fifty pieces joined into two small dogs in a flower patch. I am the only one at home and all of the lights are on and it is seven-thirty in the evening. I shake the contents of another glossy-covered cardboard box on which a gymnasium is pictured. I stand and the ache is there in my ribs from the floor and I rub them and press 'repeat' on the stereo. The phone rings and I can only see that it is ringing because the light on it flashes, I cannot hear anything over the music. I do not answer. I try to begin each of the puzzles in a fresh patch of honey hardwood so that the border stays in line with the planks. There are ridges, though, and warps in the wood that make lumps in the finished pictures. On the answering tape my mother is on her way home.

There hasn't been much crying, all things considered. I haven't stayed home from school except for on that first day and even then it wasn't as though anything were out of place except for the visiting parts. I talked on the phone and Mickey said that I shouldn't tell people what happened but I told Becky because she's my best friend and we tell each other almost everything. The Hebrew tutor still came in the afternoon and he taught me her part because she wouldn't be home in time for the Seder and someone has to sing it and I'm the next youngest. I already knew most of it and I find tutoring terribly boring most of the time and normally she would have been there to joke and conspire with in a torturous fashion, I'm sure, according to the tutor. He was trying not to seem relieved that she wouldn't be joining us. I drew tree branches all over my notebook. No one had told me, yet, that it had been on purpose. I sang softly and well and the tutor was proud.

She is rubbing the table with one finger pressed into an impossible bend because she is double-jointed. The finger looks broken but isn't. She is much darker than I am, and olive. I am pink, mostly, and light. I pull at my pants. There are doctors every so often and they ask us questions and my mother seems annoyed with everyone and defensive and maybe angry. My father shakes his head a lot and talks about god. Mickey shrugs. Take those headphones off, my mother spits at me in the waiting room when we are too early for visiting hours. I know that I should be thinking sad or important things but I am not. I am thinking about the bus ride and how Scott said my music is stupid and that if I don't listen to Nirvana I'm pretty much the dumbest person ever. His long hair looks terrible and we are not really friends. I wear my headphones pretty much all the time, now, except for in class and so I only talk to Becky and even then mostly on paper. I have a collection of notes we've passed stashed in my backpack and they make me laugh. When the visiting hours begin we shuffle into the room with the tables and the nurse and there are other families, too. Toni seems like maybe the oldest kid in the place but she was too young for the adult ward and my mom said thank god because that floor smelled like urine and the grown ups were more frightening than the children. None of us talk in this room except for my dad who asks a lot of questions and says things like are you feeling better and my sister says I guess so.

The whole family won't come this year because my mom is not up to it and it wouldn't be the same because of everything. It is just me and Mickey and our parents at the table and only four Hagadahs and four bowls of soup and we don't really even eat it. I am trying not to eat at all, right now, and it is alright that no one tells me I have to. When I sing my mother cries and she is very drunk. My father says shhh and he pats her hand and she crosses her arms. The pills were only aspirins and a few anti-histimines that she pilfered from my parents' cabinet. There are posters of dogs all over the ceiling of the room that she and I had shared until now; they are building a wall in the living room to make her a little bedroom of her own. The carpenter steps over my puzzles in the morning and Mickey says you should pick those up but I don't want to. When I finish the song we all turn the page and my father reads to us and I think about what kind of shoes I should wear to my Bat Mitzvah and how I should wear my hair. I collect the plates and pile them into the sink and my dad says your brother's not done in a mean kind of voice so I sit back down and no one talks. I play with a cork on the table.

Someone told her teacher when she came back from the bathroom. I know this because I heard my dad telling the rabbi over the phone. They had an assembly at the elementary school after the ambulance came and a lot of parents called our house and left messages. No one called them back and my mother slams the phone onto the hook, now, when it rings. She pours tequila into plastic cups and says do you know why they call it tequila? When she has too much there is crying and she says why doesn't she love me enough to want to live and I go to my room and listen to my headphones.

When I started middle school we stopped dressing alike and had different hair. Mine got curlier, hers stayed the same dark waves. One week before the summer ended I asked Mickey what the kids wear at private school. Khakis and buttoned shirts, he told me. I borrowed khaki pants from his closet and a thin white polo from my mother. I wore this ensemble for the first day of class and looked exactly like all of the boys. I can't remember, exactly, what the jokes were. The girls were pitiless and beautiful in frayed denim skirts and tiny tees. It didn't help that I knew all of the answers to all of the questions my teachers posed in the opening days of what has become a daily routine of torture. I have learned to keep as quiet as possible, and to let them copy my homework. I am a favorite at finals time, otherwise shunned. I try to crack my gum and catch the notes that are thrown across the room, folded into the impossibly tiny squares known to the fingers of such girls. Their hair is straight.

At the Roxy deli in Times Square I am squeezing the outsides of my thighs with both hands so that they are pressed tightly together. My family, minus Toni, disappears behind enormous menus and I am alone and flesh and pale skin. We have never been here before. It is the kind of group activity loathed by most of my peers, given that it is Saturday afternoon. I quit testing the distance from skin to bone and take to drawing on my napkin with an inky pen. The waiter comes and goes and the food comes, eventually, and there is not much to talk about. I count the number of bites they are taking. It takes my father nine bites to finish a half of his turkey sandwich. My mother eats soup with a big, flat spoon in twenty three bites and leaves a tepid pool of it in the bowl. My father is quick to blame for recent events, and is expounding on what, in his opinion, was clearly a mal-practiced spinal tap on my sister upon her birth. How this leads to the pills, I cannot be sure, but he continues in an angry hush for a few minutes and my mother cries a bit and Mickey folds his hands under the table. No one mentions that I haven't eaten and I am glad, in a way, though it might have been nice to be told to so that I could have had some of it. The waiter takes everything away and I am glad that we are leaving here.

I am jealous because I think that Toni has lost weight in here. My hands are piecing together the tiny shreds of the napkin, which I have mutilated without really noticing. It is hard to tell which pieces fit together because the fibers are all pulled out and every bit looks the same. I am not really trying, though. She is definitely thinner in the hospital clothes, and her hair is gloomy and shiny. My mother strokes at it a little which is stupid because Toni hates to be touched. There are snacks lined up in the middle of the table and they are more expensive than the snacks that are on other tables in the room. Some families have fast food containers and starbursts and I am embarrassed for my mother for having brought treats from the bakery to a place like this. I press my toes against the insides of my shoes.

There isn't much to them, once they are finished. I can run my palms over the flatness, the hardly noticeable faults, sharp corners. The pictures are not pleasing or even interesting. I am bored before the final piece is pressed into place. The music goes on at the same numbing volume and when Mickey comes home I am startled by him. We have nothing to say and so I slide my fingers along the edges where the sky curls blue into white behind mountains. The boxes are stacked against the walls and the pictures are the same on the sides and the tops. Mickey makes the music stop and then it is just the sound of the glass doors closing on the wall unit and then his feet crossing the living room floor crossing into his room over the boards. I am afraid of the dark.

It is late and the cars slide bright light pictures across the ceiling. Headlights chase quick colorless white across the paint, the same as always. There is a lingering time, bare footed and cold against the hardwood hallway, between my room and the room where I will find my parents sleeping. This is a familiar place. In my room the lights run north and dip into the windows before disappearing. The avenue is quiet in the hallway, where there are no windows. There were games that we played against these sounds, against the light, before all of this. There were heavy plastic flashlights that shot balls of yellow. When the room was ours, instead of mine, we passed thin hardback books to each other from our separate beds. I taught her to read in those dim precious hours when no one waited for her to speak aloud. A velvet alphabet circled us in baby pinks and blues, never mocked her in the dark. I climb from this place where she is not. My toes press cold against the floor.

I am on the phone, which is usual, and I am staring out the window facing south where Third Avenue becomes two directional. All of the taxis turn right on this street, do not signal. I am on the phone and it is pressed between my shoulder and ear and I am staring into the street and there is a beep which means that someone else is calling. I tell Becky to hold on because I do not know who is calling. It is four fifteen and I am home and Mickey is home and Toni is somewhere else. It is my mother calling, and my father, and they are not at work. I can hear traffic in the background, and voices, and other busy sounds, but I do not think about these things.

We only have a dozen or so puzzles in the cabinet, beneath the bookshelves, and I have nearly exhausted the supply. I know that I cannot stop until they are laid flat, each of them, along the hallways. Mickey says you'd better stop but I cannot hear him anymore. I shake the boxes. I am in a hurry to have them finished, all of a sudden, before our parents start to notice. One or two of the puzzles are box-less, self-contained by wooden backing. These puzzles are maps of the world or else the Hebrew alphabet, and are meant to be educational. I do not remove them from the closet, as they are already completed where they are.

She looked Mexican, when she was a kid. She is still dark, but not so differently. We dressed identically and wore our different hair in the same ways. There were words between us that were secret words and had no meaning to others. We pretended to draw these from the picture dictionary on our shelf, but the words were not real English words. Everyone said she was 'intense' but they were stupid not to know that she laughed louder than us all and her big white teeth were brighter and how her head shook solemn side to side when we were asked, over again, 'twins?'