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TALES OF AN ORANGEPEELER

an archive of pleasures, wounds, sublimations
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04.20.03, sunday afternoon

Yesterday was my brother's 24th birthday and did I wish him a happy birthday? No. Because he has disowned me, as if I was a possession to be thrown out with the garbage and not his sister, the girl who has seen the things he had seen, the girl who has felt some of the things he had felt, the girl who had loved him and hated him, too, all those years in southern California.

I was the one who would boil eggs for him after school when we were very young and our mother toiled faraway, frying and selling donuts in San Diego. Under my impatient watch, the eggs would often come out very very soft, the yolks trembling and runny. Sometimes I would forget; the eggs would be very hard, tinged bile-green, the yolk like a soft flaky rock, all its mystery sealed within.

I was the one who saw, with him, the departure of our mother and later the destruction of our oak tree in Santa Ana, which you could see for blocks and blocks away. With saws, the cutters came and broke it slowly but surely down into firewood, torn branch, succulent leaves that were swept up and into trash bags. They killed it and it was okay; our mother said so.

I was the one who woke with him and our mother, at four am every morning in San Diego. Was I nine or ten? I don't remember. We rarely saw our cousins, in whose house we lived; they didn't have to get up at four am or go to bed at eleven pm. San Diego was always the sleeping city, a city of highways and blue buildings, moody like Picasso's melancholy blue period; we never saw the city except in the early mornings or in the late evenings, when we would return from the donut shop, weary, powdered sugar, our clothes stinky sweet. For years after the donut shop was sold, I couldn't stand the smell of a donut; I thought I'd puke.

I was the one who had tried to kill him, when, in our adolescent bodies, we raged. By then, we had known little tenderness, except maybe for library books and for forest and alien creatures scrawled on mattresses and scraps of paper that were shoved under the bed.

I am the one who has seen you at your most vulnerable and who has seen you when you were angry and would slam the doors when you would run away, in your flip-flops, from the object of your anger and later when you would sleep as soon as you got home from school, waiting til everyone was asleep so that you could wake up and go about your business. It was the only privacy you had.

And though I have known you as my brother, you would disown me, as if I was a belonging, now tainted with a bad smell. As if we do not share these memories, this history that we know, more determinant than whatever similar entanglements of DNA our blood might reveal. To these memories we belong, memories you cannot slough off or disown like you would your sister.






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