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Simian Line


When I was small, I was afraid that if I looked for too long at any one person, we might switch bodies. I felt a pang of jealous love for my own lost memories. A girl read my palm yesterday. The history I cannot recall is still mine. “What happened when you were five?” she asked me.
Sometimes in dreams, I lie in a hospital bed. I am my mother’s mother. I see my granddaughter and she is weeping. It is like looking into a mirror, seeing a ghost. I remember playing in the streets in the summer of 1933. I remember breathing smoke, dust. My lungs are black and heavy.
I try to remember my birth, or the darkness that was my home for nine months. I was a piece of my mother before she was born. I was inside my grandmother also, existing before my own heartbeat. I am older than myself.
The palmist traced a line that spanned the whole width of my hand. “It is not normal,” she said, “for this line to stretch, unbroken.” “What does it mean?” I asked her. “I don’t know how to tell you,” she said.
I imagine a person who is half me—her yellow curls and translucent skin; her poor posture and inward facing toes; her bad eyes, long arms, dry hands; her unbroken simian line. I worry that I could never love such a person. “And my children?” I asked the palmist. She looked up at me, and said nothing.

--Bethany K., Adult