It was a river and it flowed from our home straight from my parents’ room. It was thick and smelled of copper. It was always flowing. Sometimes I would go on to the stairs and up the hallway and feel it pass through my toes and over my skin and up my legs and across my belly and up to my hair and I would taste it. It was the taste of dust and hard empty coins.
I would follow it to my mom’s room and knock, but no one ever answered and I never went in.
I would see the woman and I would see the man. They were my mom and my dad.
They came to the table for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and they were all smiles and laughs about work and sometimes they would get up and ruffle my hair and kiss my forehead. They would leave a lingering smell of the river in their touches.
They left me every morning noon and night after eating, though they never finished their food. They would go straight to their room and I would stay downstairs.
Sometimes I went to school. Sometimes I didn’t. If I stayed home they never noticed. They were always in their room.
They still had their small anecdotes, though, about Geoffrey who always made the coffee too bitter, or about Yolanda’s newest kid, could she really afford to have another one?
I would ask my friends, “Do your parents stay in their rooms all the time too?”
They always said “No,” or “I don’t think so,” or “I don’t pay attention to that kind of dumb shit.”
“What do you think their doing up there?”
“Probably having hard core sex.” Scott would say as he jutted his body at me.
“Gross.” I would reply and push Scott back, but then I wouldn’t really think it’s that gross. Was it? Was it gross if the river, the copper river flowing forth from my parent’s room, was sex all along?
No one ever wanted to enter our house. No one ever came over. It was just me, the ambassador from the copper home.
No one else could see the river. None of my friends saw it at least, if my parents saw it they would never say and I was always too worried to ask them about it.
If I walked in it, the river would stain my clothes with both its dark color and its stench. I started just walking naked around the house when I knew no one was going to be around.
After a while, though, it started leaving its color on me too. Layer by layer the color of the river would paint my already dark skin with its own dark colors.
It use to come off easily, but now it started to appear all over me. Stuck to my skin. Stuck to me.
I started leaving it on other people after a while too. It never stained their skin, but if I touched them with my fingers or brushed a hand against their cheek the dark kiss of the river would appear where our skins had met.
“Do you see it?” I would ask.
“See what?” They would so quickly reply sometimes with fear for a personal blemish across their skin or just a look of curiosity because they really didn’t know.
“I’ve left something on you.”
They would look at their skin where I had motioned and see nothing.
“Yes you have.” Some of them would growl and push me back and kiss my lips. For a second I would forget the mark and I would gasp into their mouth as I let some of my excitement for their body escape into them.
And they would take my gasp and let it go through their body ready to push it back in to me.
The river would always come back to me.
I saw the river sometimes just trickling through the street. I saw it, a thin dark flowing line, states away in front of the house I was staying in with nine other people far away from my mom and dad.
Was it following me? Was it always here? Was I following it?
I found someone in another country across the sea. I talked about the river. I talked about my parents.
“Do you believe me?”
We were in love, I think. Enough, so, that everything we said seemed true.
“Do you still see it?”
I saw it hidden in the cracks of the hotel room.
One night I followed it out to the morning and found myself outside of the city at an unnamed beach. I could see it moving beneath the ocean, a tiny dark river in the sand.
“You feel cold.” Warm arms would hold my body as I tried to sleep.
From the hotel room in my bed we could hear the rooms around us full of people always awake.
I missed my parent’s quiet home.
I missed their silence.
They died before I could get the world to meet them. They didn’t leave anything behind. The river was gone, but in the hallway there were light footprints all over the floors, feet that my own feet did not fit in to.
I found their steps all over the house. I found them next to my bed.
I found fingerprints on my drawings, and pictures, and old school homework that I had left pinned to the back of my bedroom door.
I couldn’t find anyone who knew my parents. I couldn’t find Geoffrey or Yolanda.
I didn’t hold a wake. There was no funeral. No one ever called to ask why.
I moved into the house after the trickling of the river finally ended. I left Europe and the hotel.
I went into the bedroom.
There was a bed. There was a dresser. There were pictures of me.
In the bed a flame of color was on my parent’s sheets.
In the sheets I could smell copper and dust.
We slept in their bed. We slept a long time.
I can lay my hands on their prints. I can almost see them still.
We were in love enough, so, that everything we said seemed true.