Ma Jeunesse

Hannah Pass


Because of the gashes in her antlers Sabine is moving in with her mother. We sit on my bed and I wrap a towel around her rack until it covers all the way up to the sharp tips. Around her hollow bones, the texture of tree trunks, pointing every which way. Sabine squints her eye lids purple-tight like tiny grapes as I watch the towel soak bright with blood. I cannot get too close. I always sit a perfect foot away.

We are trying to be still, to communicate like the animals, then to talk like her mother will talk. We speak in French. L’antilope. Ma jeunesse. We speak words with our mouths only. We breathe lungfuls.

This was the summer we grew breasts. This was the summer when everything we grew hurt.

“When I grow up I want my daughter to be a ballerina,” I say.

“When I grow up I want my daughter to have hooves,” says Sabine.

Sabine’s father shoots guns for fun. He is good at tying rope into knots and undoing the snarls.

Before school, Sabine eats cereal out of a plastic Kool-Aid pitcher with no milk.

“The vitamin D,” says her father. “Stay away from the vitamin D. Doctor’s orders.” He puts long winter hats on her head and stretches the yarn down over her ears.

“When my mother comes she will have feathered hair.”

“When your mother comes she will have golden eyes.”

The weekend, we walk a mile to get to the woods. We leave pieces of bananas and string cheese on piles of moss. A note with her address. Photographs of baby Sabine wrapped in a pink blanket, a misshaped head with two nubs.

In the woods there are homes in places where the light hits.

“Those are the places where the animals live,” says Sabine, pointing.

“Of course. Why would they live in the dark?” I say.

We march hours through the timber with sticks in our hands. We search for houses in the shape of our house, but there are none.

On my porch steps, we sit palms out facing each other. I kiss Sabine’s fingers and she rubs them on her cheeks. She smiles with a pink lip-sticked face.

“See, that is what it feels like,” I say.

Sabine runs onto the lawn then stomps her feet. She bucks her antlers against the house and the trees, then collapses onto the grass with leaves caught in her hair. She calls out to her mother. It is a familiar call and I hear it deep in the pit of my stomach.

I want to disentangle her.

“She’ll be here any day now,” says Sabine.