“Sour Breath Doesn’t Vanish in a Day”

The cruelest thing my sister ever did was convince me that I had a place in this world.  I don’t, that’s the truth, and I never have.

Allie brought me to my first party when I was fifteen.  Never before, besides New Year’s with our parents, had I stayed up past midnight.  “Hey, Dan, this is my little bro,” she mumbled to the bouncer, all of her mushy syllables blurring into one long word like a runny egg yolk.  “Isn’t he just the sweetest little brat you’ve ever seen?”  I stuck my shoulders back and my nose up and pretended to know what I was doing.  Music thudding against my ribs, I entered that club with a strange electricity simmering in my bones, pulsating in my tiny, bustling mind.  I had power, choice, and a mark to make on all around me.

Allie was the first person to demand that I speak—no, not just speak, scream.  For years, the two of us rang out like bells, declaring little manifestos and meaninglessnesses to the air and airheads of our tiny town.  When we were together, we sang, wrote, and talked incessantly.  We spewed our thoughts and dreams until our throats withered up like spoiled apple cores, refusing to be stifled by the buffers of time and transience.

I’ve realized, though, Allie was not a good person.  Well, not by the standards of most people, and by most people, I mean people in their right minds.  Everyone has a dark side.  I waited in line for so long at the grocery store I wanted to smack the man in front of me, I sometimes wish the damn dog would up and choke on his own tail so Mary would wake up and realize that she has a husband, too, I haven’t eaten since three and now I could slap the bus driver across the face, he’s going so slow, that sort of thing.  Allie didn’t have a “dark side.”

Her darkness wasn’t segregated in a corner, stuffed into a dunce cap and forced to sit, fingers laced in its lap, only poking out in midnight spurts of rebellion and evil.  It was who she was, what she was, seeping into her every branch: her eyelashes, her snide remarks, her long, piano fingers, her booming yells, her childishness, her tender touch.

She had a light side, I could feel it, but one so faint it couldn’t manage to peek through for more than an instant.  Sometimes, she would grasp my arm for a second, look away, sigh.  Then, her hands would grow cold again, her eyes back to dull grey, teeth yellower than before.

Day after day, she still sings, but with a husky, rotten voice.  She refuses to believe she’s dying.  Her bitter breath wafts sleepily out, suspended like a fog over our street, our town, our world.  It stinks of cigarettes and energy drink and something sour, something awful, something precious.  Something else that dare not breathe its name.

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About Sarah Lyon

Sarah Lyon is a student from New York City and an avid lover of words and potatoes.  She participated in a fiction and poetry seminar at Amherst College last summer, and writes for her school's literary and music magazines.  She enjoys stopping people on the sidewalk for ten minutes just to pet their dogs, arguing about poetry, and writing self-indulgent bios.