“O angel, where have you gone?” Myra’s mother asks as Myra presses her hands against the glass of that barred hospital window, her mother’s face a lyric she can sing but cannot yet place, her father’s eyes a melody running through her, untitled. These pebbles that the nurses toss in her direction are mere scribbles in the margins of a life that she has lost. Mania has pulled apart the horizon’s mark with its fingers, then snatched her compass from her front pocket, bent its fragile arrow side to side, her tool of travel cock-eyed, crooked, skewed—left Myra doomed to search for answers in a wilderness no one else sees, journal pages furled like white flags around her neck as she surrendered to a world of fiction that no one else can find.
Myra’s mother sighs as the silence between her and her daughter swells. Myra turns and mumbles, but her breath is caught inside black blotches of ink, inside a notebook as she scribbles through this morning searching for stars. In Myra’s mind, symptoms dissipate with the transfer of words to page, and some of the nurses swear that her writings prove that she is faking, as others swear she is insane, due to drug abuse or otherwise. No one knows.
Myra’s mother mapped her height across the kitchen wallpaper until Myra turned 17. Every Christmas, her Mamaw squinted to see the waxy lines, said “Look how much you’ve grown.” This year those marks which once chartered expansion dwindled into scars. The cartography of her growth began to fade with her father’s smile.
Before Myra turned 17, her family was always close. Myra’s mother always shared her secrets with her sister and her grandmother, and Myra grew up naming her Barbie dolls after relatives whose bodies slipped up the horizon long before she began to walk. She always knew that these ancestors had a place near the brightest stars, that they were not trapped in the picture frames kept on the book shelf, but that instead their spirits dangled from the edge of the full moon. She could hear them sing as long as she was dreaming.
Tonight as Myra sags her shoulders against the glass of the ward window, her mother thinks of the nursery rhymes she whispered those late nights when Myra was young. Late nights when she unwrapped Myra’s French braids and let her hair roll in waves down the back of her pink nightgown. A week ago Myra cut her hair as mania ghosted through her. The curls still fill the trashcan in her mother’s bathroom. Her mother thinks back through her life, extends the strands of her memory past county lines and decades. She reaches for the Catskills with the tips of brittle fingers. She finds her childhood curled around the North Carolina coastline. She crawls into her Aunt’s bedroom. Her mother sees her sixteen-year-old self strain to understand the meaning of her Aunt’s diagonsis. Schizophrenia, Myra’s mother thinks to herself, as the nurses call her to the next room to get Myra’s family history.
Myra’s mother leaves the maps of memory, exits the skeleton of her womanhood to find her way back to present tense. She finds her way back into Louisiana’s borders, and answers the nurses’ questions. But schizophrenia never leaves her lips in that room.
On the drive home, she mouths the words under her breath and begins to cry. She opens the glove box, shoves aside manuals, maps, a tire-pressure gauge, and old receipts. She picks up a small packet of tissues. Cries the whole drive home.
That night, Myra ghosts her way into her mother’s room, crawls into the mirror across from where her mother sleeps. So that when Myra’s mother wakes, her daughter’s marrow rolls in dripping rows across the nape of the mother’s reflection. So that before Myra’s mother opens the curtains to see the sunrays rise against the pond, her daughter’s body skips across the surface like a pebble, ripples in her mother’s green irises, its shadow tinting the world wet and dark.