Costume
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12 My brother is squeezable. I like to squeeze his head and rest my fingers on the soft spot at the top where the bones stay open, waiting for smartness to enter. I fit two fingers in this spot and rub in slow circles. Today my brother is dressed as a pink bunny rabbit and I am a witch. My mother designed his costume because he’s still too small to imagine for himself. He’s at the stage where he hops around in his plastic underpants and eats the dog food. He lives in a round leaky world, with a round face and cheeks that are just waiting to be pinched, so he can have a pink face to poke out of his pink costume, with the satin hood that fits over his head like a ballet slipper, and the ears my mom spent hours on—carefully stuffing with pipe cleaners and pieces of cardboard. “He’s perfect,” my grandmother says as she greets us at her front dooronHalloweennight.Shecarrieshimintothelivingroom,props him up in the middle of the couch for all to admire. “Oh, oh, oh,” say my aunts of the long flowing hair: Delia the difficult , Annie who is worrisome, Sandra the serious and responsible. They gather around him and he sits there smiling and interpreting every word as a sign of love, every sound and smell as the goodwill of the universe. “Yes,” says my mom. He’s her very own special creation. I slide along the living room wall of my grandparents’ house in mycrookedglasses.Islideandcreep.I’veusedmaskingtapetoattach Costume 13 Costume plasticeyelashestomyeyelids,tomakemyeyesappearmoremysterious . My glasses have no lenses—all the better to see him with. I’ve made my costume myself, out of my mom’s short silky green negligee , a witch hat, and fifteen Mardi Gras necklaces looped around my waist, neck, and arms for casting spells. I can see the future with my glasses, and in it I’ll be good. * * * When it’s time to take our Halloween picture the family assembles in the living room. I lift my brother off the couch and prop him up in front of me, against the coffee table. He lets me do what I want with him. Hold him up by his armpits, dangle him upside down over the edge of my parents’ bed. I tell him in the bathtub not to feel bad about the weird thing between his legs: all boys have it and it’s called a penis. Now Grandma is yelling for someone to get Great-Grandma Mary who’s losing her memory of us. She thinks the camera’s flash will fix us, bright and smiling, in her mind. But Great-Grandma Mary is half-blind. She has to be fetched from the kitchen and wheeled up in her chair very, very close, and when she’s finally in place and my aunts and uncles have gathered to see, Great-Grandma Mary leans across the coffee table and says, “Oh, what a beautiful geranium!” “No!” my grandmother yells. I settle my hands on my brother’s head as my aunt Delia and my mom explain to Great-Grandma Mary what she’s supposed to see. “The children! They’re wearing costumes!” But I like her originality. I blur my eyes behind invisible lenses. I pat my brother’s stomach , hug him, whisper “Shhh,” and when he giggles and says “Shhh” back,Irollhissatinbunnyears,verygently,bendingthepipecleaners 14 Elegies for Uncanny Girls and crunching the cardboard my mother spent such a long time on into two small handles. Great-Grandma Mary leans closer, her eyes swimming behind glasses as thick as crystal balls. My father, who takes me out to shoot hoops, who treats me like a boy but will soon discover I’m not; Delia, who asked of my costume, “Whose idea was that?”; and my uncle, with the frightening voice, who yells, “My, what beautiful eyelashes you have!” all lean forward. They press in on us with their decisions about who is the best looking, who is too much of an individual, who is a little bit strange. I smile, squint, blur my eyes and turn my family into shadows. But I can still feel them, filling us up with their different ideas, fastening us in place. My grandpa, steady with the camera, counts, “One, two,” but before he can snap the shot, Great-Grandma Mary, whose voice is like water, says, “I see now. A pink bear, and a clever little...


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