Yael

Yael picks at their cuticles. When they speak to themself, they speak out loud. They speak to themself this morning. I think, they say, that I am coming down with wisteria. Their nail beds a bit purplish.

There’s a Caesar cipher decoder ring in their shredded wheat and, unsure of what to decode first, Yael hides it under their pillow. Yael says, Today I’ll be lonely. They need the practice.

Yael never drinks their cereal milk, pours it back into the jug. But they are thirsty. Outside of their tent, the lawn is still entirely a lawn — the neighbors kept to themselves last night, trampled none of the daffodils. A good omen. Today Yael can leave their tent without fear. Of what? The omen has no answer, it presents only the bright of things.

Yael shoves three empty bottles into their bag and heads toward the river.
 

The pigs are having a swim and pay Yael no mind as they submerge each bottle. Yael imagines the bubbles that shimmy out are the 
bottle’s breath, that they have the power to take breath from anyone.

The hair on their arms turns golden. Then the water. Then the pigs flee. Yael looks down as Sun approaches. They were already kneeling. 
Their shins disrupting the path of an ant colony’s leaf-carrying 
ceremony. The ants do not bite Yael — Sun is watching, and the ants like being alive, love to feel the weight of a veiny leaf, love even more the sound their mandibles make piercing through that leaf.

Sun kicks a flowering fennel as He walks toward Yael, but forgets to change the wind’s direction. The seeds blow into Yael’s hair and up their nose. Though Yael did not see Him do it, Sun gives himself away by whining, It’s not my fault.
 

Sun’s whine reminds Yael of their husband, Heber. Heber whines like that when Yael wants to leave his tent. When Yael doesn’t invite him into their tent. When Yael doesn’t want to watch a movie that Heber has seen a dozen times.

It’s exhausting to be shown things, to try to enjoy a movie while also giving a convincing performance of that enjoyment. Heber ruins these screenings — he weeps before the scenes that call for weeping. He mouths each pivotal line.

So far, Yael has spent their life absorbing men’s favorites. On the rare occasion that Heber does ask to watch their favorite movie, Yael can’t remember having one. This makes Yael feel a creaking, hollow-boned kind of gloom.

This gloom opens the flaps in their brain that make them want to lie in bed all day.

Yael does not know the sound of their loudest yell. All their noises 
have been practiced. Maybe this is why Sun’s whine makes their cheeks flush. The sound is a selfish one. Why should it go unpunished?
 

Sometimes, when they think of Heber away at war, Yael grows giddy, 
presses their smile hard into their pillow until the whirling joy 
subsides. But what is the mainspring of that giddiness? They try to dissect the thought:

          Heber = Giddy

                    Or

                              Heber away = Giddy

                                        Or

                                                  Heber away at war = Giddy
 

If Yael were to look up from the dirt, they’d see the kestrels circling above, their left talons leashed to Sun’s wrist by neon green fishing line. Taut line. No give.

Yael won’t look up.

Sun exhales and lets loose His belly. It peeks out from under His shirt. You can keep thinking of me as Sun. He’s relieved Yael is alone. I’ve been looking for a new name. His old name felt stale. Dead by comparison. Sun is perfect.

I have a very important job for you, Yael, descendant of — He’d left His notes at home — Yael. Enlist in my war against the wicked and blessed shall you be above all people in the tent.

Sun doesn’t mention that Yael isn’t His first, or even His second, choice.