22. At home Amy takes her pictures out of her fossil drawer and goes over them one by one, looking for clues about the tumor.

Read in Spanish

  Tulsa, 1991

 

Tulsa, 1991

At home Amy takes her pictures out of her fossil drawer and goes over them one by one, looking for clues about the tumor. She begins at the beginning.

The first is from Christmas Day of the five-foot polyester teepee set up in the living room next to the tree. Every Christmas Eve the girls get to spend the night inside the teepee while Santa and his reindeer go around the world. Their aim is always to stay up all night, and officially it is the one night of the year when even their mom says they have no bedtime. And at first, in the gentle glow of the thousand tiny lights strung around and around the tree, diffuse through the teepee’s tan fabric, Amy sees her sister’s big brown eyes gleam. As long as Amy permits it Zoe recites her Christmas list: a puppy, a tree house, a trampoline, a puppy, new crayons, some new movies, a leash with sparkles and colors on it, puppy stickers, a water gun, a princess crown, a book about puppies.

You can’t read Zoe’s handwriting yet, and Zoe can’t spell, so Amy is the one to make the lists. Zoe insists on putting puppy twice so Santa knows it’s important.

And in fact at the moment this first picture is taken Zoe is in the study, still by the fireplace squeezing her little Scottish terrier to her face.

By the time the reindeer land on top of their house and Santa comes down and eats the cookies and drinks the milk they set out for him on the mantle the girls have always fallen asleep. Zoe falls first after a prolonged struggle. Amy pretends to fall asleep first, but secretly she watches over her sister’s hot little body curled up against her, breath quick, feet shuffling, a tight, pulsing ball of pure desire. Then slowly Zoe succumbs, and Amy lets herself follow.

As if by magic the teepee always fits them, even though they grow.

Amy holds the picture out by the tip of the hard white strip at the bottom and brings it back up to her face, scrutinizing and recalling. She weighs in her mind her sister’s heartbeat versus the jerks and twitches of her body during seizures, looks to see if she can see. Why did Zoe get a tumor, she wonders, but she did not? The girls almost always get sick at the same time: chicken pox, strep throat, colds. Then it’s fun because their dad reads them stories like the one about the duck that turns into a swan and their mom brings them glasses of Tang. Unless Amy does have a brain tumor but no one knows yet. In that case her personality might already be changing. In that case she might already be becoming a completely different person, but nobody has noticed, and Amy can’t notice because it’s her brain that’s getting switched.

Amy slips the teepee picture back into the Manila folder. She examines all the pictures of their house, searching for the culprit: the pantry with the light switched on, the kitchen, the dining room looking towards the living room so you don’t see those plates with the shipwrecks and the boys that drown, the long oak church pew in the living room where no one ever sits, the smooth cool concrete of the front porch, the giant tree in the backyard with the sun behind it, their dad’s study that takes up almost a third of the whole house, the very long driveway and clear down at the end of it the garage like a little separate house with the basketball goal affixed to its peeling white siding, the coats in the entryway, their room with its invisible line drawn down the middle separating order from chaos, their mom’s desk in the hallway between their parents’ room and their room, their parents’ room, the bathroom with the bathtub bubbly before their mom gets in.

Next she does all the pictures she has of Zoe: Zoe in a red dress with a flouncy skirt with a white ribbon around her tiny waist, holding a fluffy white purse in one hand and a plastic gorilla in the other, her hair all wild and tangled, smiling the smile she always produces when told, which is more like a scowl. Zoe dressed like a pioneer woman for when they do the Oklahoma Land Run at school, wearing a white apron and a black bonnet, her hands folded neatly in her lap, though she has already half risen up off the ground like she’s about to bolt off. Zoe at the bottom of the staircase for the Silver Bullet at Big Splash from right before they both climbed up and Amy gave her camera to their dad for safekeeping. Zoe with the roses to the side of their grandparents’ house, and Amy remembers the feel of the velvet petals between her fingers, that sweet slight smell.

She looks and looks like the doctors do with the CAT Scans, but she keeps not seeing it, even though she knows it must be there.