I don’t know, I don’t know. I never know.
This is what I know.
I remember finding an old tortoise shell in our backyard. Near the woods at the bottom of the hill. I slipped my hand into its domed cave, where a small head once brooded itself. My fingers peeked out to form a Hydra tail. It was strange, if also perfect. For the rest of the afternoon, I wore the shell as a bracelet. I was some kind of mythological creature, or maybe the tortoise from Aesop’s fable (though, in truth, I was always the hare). I don’t remember the details, just the feeling. I felt the peculiar, singular joy of a child living without constructed stages. I was uncontained.
I could tell that my mother was disturbed by the thing. And I see why now. This hollowed token of death, swallowing up her daughter’s arm. My mother had a tender heart, you see. But children are fascinated by death, and endings. An ending is the limit of imagination. The farthest crawl. To make an ending a beginning? This is the beginning of a child testing infinity, of being God.
My father made me remove the shell when it was time for practice. I’m sure I made some kind of scene. And I don’t remember what happened to the shell afterward. Perhaps it was buried, like the box you uncovered. But years later, when we were living in Paris, he bought me a tortoiseshell bracelet. I pretended to like it. Because he’d remembered. And some part of him felt guilty for what was taken from me.
Because of you, I remember this.
And this image in my mind has been played. Over and over again. Of sliding my grown hand through that narrow window, and watching my fingers, my palm, my wrist just . . .