Issue 41 Oct 2016
I’m lying on my side, staring absently at the swarm of black-legging-clad legs tracing slow, deliberate, synchronized circles in the mirrored wall in Nia’s tiny studio. My thighs are burning, my stomach hurts, and even though Pilates is supposed to help me learn to focus better, my mind feels as fuzzy as a kitten. I need a break, and Nia always tells me to take one if I need it. I stop circling--but, oddly, bizarrely, my leg in the mirror doesn’t. I know this makes no sense, but that mirror-leg? It just keeps twirling around with the others, as if it somehow missed the memo that my real leg isn’t moving anymore.
Am I missing something here? This is nuts. I feel like--well, like I’m seeing a ghost, and if you were me you’d know just how freaky that is. But as I look more carefully into the mirrors, I finally pick out my unmoving leg in the midst of all the looping and swooping ones. It’s sticking stupidly out to the side at an awkward angle, stone still, almost hidden behind the girl whose leg I was mistakenly following and thinking was mine.
There’s no mystery here. No woo-woo long-dead twin coming back to haunt me.
There’s just spacey, ditzy, me, who can’t even identify her own leg in a line-up.
After class, Nia calls me over.
“Alice, are you feeling okay?” she asks, forehead creased. “You look a little pale.” Nia is a friend of my mom’s, which is kind of annoying, although it’s also part of why I get to take Pilates and yoga instead of some dorky modified P.E. class at school. I like it, so I’m still coming even though it’s summer and I don’t have to.
Badjao tribe community in Davao City, Philippines
April 4, 2014
My sister whimpers in fear. I try not to panic as the flames close in, cutting off our exit. I pull her closer to me, drawing the malong* she’s wrapped in over her head so falling bits of burning debris will not scathe her.
I try to be brave for her sake.
The flames rapidly close in on us, bringing to rubble our home—and our community. Before I know it the bamboo floor has broken from beneath me. I scream as we plunge down into the darkness beneath, both holding each other with a fierce determination not to be separated while everything else crumbles around us.
Cool, salty liquid encloses its arms around me—the same ocean where my father has worked to support our family as a fisherman. The calm and gentle rushing of the waves is a relief after being exposed to the furiously scorching heat. My malong skirt swirls around me with the pulling and releasing of the waves as I surface, pushing my sister upward to be certain she can breathe. The fire rises arrogantly towards the sky, growing in hunger as it spreads its unrelenting destruction across our community.