7.02 / February 2012

The Lights

listen to this story

The lights have been with us a long time. We have all decided what they mean.

In groups, when first gathered, we receive direction. We are asked questions about lights. The lights we like best will be mirrored by one hand rising into the air. Our bottoms will not rise into the air. Sitting, we wait until we are asked the question we like best. We raise our hands. Some of us do not raise our hands. Some of us raise two hands. These second hands are severed with the metal edge of a yardstick. The severed hands are confiscated and placed in the drawer where unauthorized items gather. The stump is placed underneath our bottoms. Only one hand may rise. One or none.

Place your knees on our throats and we choose you. We love what is good. Place your knees. There is no you. We want you to love us. There is no you. Place your knees. Dig deeper. When we wake, you are us. There is no you. We are born deep beneath the earth. We start the fires. We love what is good. There is no you.

We wait in our seats to be asked. We know that we will be asked and this is good. It is good to practice the raising and the choosing. We must decide what colors we like. No matter how much our hands rattle in the air they will only be counted once. There is only one value each hand may assume. We know that this is good. We love what is good.

The lights have been with us a long time. We have all decided what they mean.

Break from the water; we see ourselves. We know that we become who we see each morning, organized in this pattern as the film before our eyes.

We are training our remembrances. The film before our eyes and the air around our bed is the layer of someone moving. We do not remember who we see. We do not remember because it is the same flesh everyday. We do not remember because we do not remember our own. Like we do not remember air. Like we do not remember the water we wade, waking.

The lights have been with us a long time. We have all decided what they mean.

We have organized our waking so that one wakes before the other. One stands before the other, kneels then leans. We sense this in our swimming. We feel ourselves approaching light through water. We experience one light, then another. Both our own.

Place your knees.

After count and decision we receive cakes. We receive the same cakes no matter when our hands raise into the air or which light we like best. The number of hands in each group is counted. The count is important. We all receive the same cakes. There are no crumbs. We eat the cakes together and the frosting crusts our hands but not the hands in the drawer. Our stumps stay under our bottoms until we arrive at home and can plunge them in ice water. We hope no one will notice.

The lights are important to us. We have all decided what they mean. We have not all decided on what this meaning means to us. How we are to engage that meaning. All of us can agree on the meaning but that is not the danger. The danger is the engagement.

When we have grown the importance of our preference increases exponentially. We make choices. We are happy to participate. Now we may all affix paper medals to our sternums. The safety pins the medals hang on move slightly in our skin, up and down. To ensure the safety of our choices, the medals are not to be seen. Our participation noted in the drops of blood on our shirt fronts.

There were some once that tried to change the meaning. They were unsuccessful.

But we are told of piles. We cannot reach them but we are told our choices lie in unopened piles. They arrive, they are sorted, they are not counted. We believe our choices are respected. We are told our choices are respected and due to this respect they are counted. But we are also told of piles. Instead of respect through counting and decision, our choices become piles. We imagine our choices piling. Through this we see our colors uncounted.

We recognize the imperfections of our modes. We believe in their delineations. We have decided what they mean. The lights have been with us a long time.

Have you made your answer clear? We have chosen a color. Have you chosen your color? We were not asked to choose. What we have bled into. We bring this color into our homes. We wrap our choice around our homes. We wrap it around our necks in stiff kerchiefs. We hold each others tongues, they squirm at our touch and they writhe in the pools of our color when lopped and dipped. We swap tongues and swallow. We were not told to do this. We were told to do this. Who told us to do this. We told ourselves to do this. We have made a choice.

We pick ourselves.

What we cannot agree on-

-We agree that it requires a shift in temperament. What that shift entails remains unclear. We envelop the unclear making it obsolete.

What we cannot agree on-

-We remember fire, we remember movement. We remember lights. They have been with us a long time. We know there is a swamp where our severed hands refuse to decompose.

We have all decided what they mean.

We are born. We are born deep beneath the earth. Claw our way out of sand and clay. If born too deep beneath rock we cannot move. Our nails, still too soft. We stay beneath the earth. The fires.

Above the soil, our nails can grow. But the fires spread, feeding on root. Stretch for miles. Wish to dig, we cannot. Our fingertips blister.

We are safe only in water. We are safe only in bodies of time. We carry buckets of water; we soak the ground. We create paths of water toward water.

Still our hearts before we enter the water. Dip slowly, tip by tip into the water and we still our hearts. Noses above the water, we wait. We do not stir. Any movement could be heat beneath the water. Once we recognize movement expressing heat we leave. We make haste.

We with cloth wrap our feet in the cloth and carry those young enough to be carried. Running we meet groups who carry news of the water and the spreading flames. The water we move toward, too hot. If the blood of our beloveds boil we carry them on our backs. To bury in trees when we reach mountains. We must before our buckets dry.

In the mountains we mold the fires. In the mountains we make the lights.

The lights have been with us a long time. Clockwork rings of soot and stubble. Have you seen them before? Arched back, cloaked light. Where have they been. By us, where we sleep. Alone, loosened, touching our stomachs and feeling a glow. Feeling the gurgle. The different types of boiling.

We pick ourselves. We pick ourselves until we bleed. There, there is the color we have been waiting for.

We move beneath the lights, finding correlation in dissection. We are not lost.

Do you see them?

When we are splintered what can we say. We move. Our eyes open. Our eyes close. We breathe. Not at the same time. The lights-

Quiet, we are waking. We are moving. Slowly through water. We see light and are rising. We are rising to meet you. Quiet, we are waiting to speak.

Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes is an MFA candidate and graduate teacher at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her work has appeared in Mary: A Journal of New Writing, Ghost Ocean Magazine, Titmouse and elsewhere. She is the fiction editor of Timber.
7.02 / February 2012