Perhaps the hardest thing about sharing a bed with your sister is the mornings. The way the sun rises crooked through the blinds. How it starts at eye level, straight as an arrow. Gradually tracing your body like a prism. How your mom’s voice sounds when it enters the room, limbs akimbo. A siren, a death knell.
In the summer, sheets sticking to your body, the flimsy mattress covered in sweat. You and your sister wearing camisoles and chones. Carboard egg crates wedged underneath the box springs. Your mom used to sleep with you too, before you got too maduro. A bedroom without intrigue, without contact or touch. Nothing like in the telenovelas she watches every night.
When you’re older, it doesn’t matter whether you remember the dream or not. You could be an astronaut, a vigilante, burn up in a car crash. How you go to sleep just wishing it would stop. Every damp mark something you’ll need to scrub off by hand, burying your shame. You wonder why it is you’re coming undone, like a reptile shedding its skin.
In the winter, eating pupusas with your hands before crawling into bed. You and your sister back-to-back, the covers up to your necks. Your body curved like a leaf, a nautilus. What are you thinking about? you ask, knowing she’s still awake. Her fingers scouring the celular she hides from your mom. The image of her in his bed. Sheets rustling like animals, walls full of eyes. The candle in the glass on the floor burning low.
At the kitchen table, your mom holding your nose when you drink sopa. Acting out in school, just to feel her palm hot on your face. In bed, not knowing what to do with your hands. The way you reach for a blanket and brace against flesh. Your mom on the dingy futon just outside the room. How you beg her to sleep somewhere else. Her voice insistent through the wall: one day you’ll thank me for this, hijo, you just wait.
It was like that for years. Being loved and feeling nothing at all. The stray trace of an arm, a wisp of hair, an errant touch. Waking up with your arms laced around you like a strait jacket, hard to explain. The times you are first to notice the sheets, and, more often, the times you aren’t. Morning after morning, so far back there is no before.
Then, years later, sharing other beds. Lumpy pull-outs, tall headboards made of brass, four-posters like the ones you saw on TV. Strangers you’d meet one night and never see again. Amantes you would know intimately. Lying on your back, a body at your side, sheets pulled up to your neck. Tracing the room with your breath. The sun coming in crooked through the blinds. Learning what it is to love, and still feeling nothing.