I'm always impaling myself on silver things, things my lover gives me
when I'm not looking. He buys me silver rings and puts them on me when
I'm asleep. He buckles my waist with a silver belt, drapes me with
silver necklaces, fastens anklets under my jeans, puts six earrings in
the holes of my ears. Silver and never gold, because silver is the
color of the accident one longs for. It's light that slants through
rice paper shades, a face on the street that carries you through
You can't love someone without hurting them—that's
what my brother told me once. We were home from college, washing pots
in the sink, and my brother had just gone crazy on LSD. He
thought he could climb walls, when he was only scaling a chair. He
thought he could see the truth, when he was staring at a shopping list.
"But one thing I knew," he said. "You can't love someone without
hurting them. I saw that when I looked inside my brain and all the
cells were singing You can't love someone without hurting them.
They were beautiful, those cells. All of them were made of
My parents were getting divorced, just as I am now. Light was coming
through the kitchen, the kind of light that makes you think you're in
another century. "Is it fifth-century Greece?" I asked my brother.
"No," he answered. "It's the Huang dynasty."
I wanted to hug my brother and say everything would be okay: His
brain would stop singing. He wouldn't have to hurt people he
loved. In fact, things didn't go well for him until he got a
Ph.D. in physiology and discovered that those years of watching his own
brain cells had paid off. Now he lives in Rome and writes papers with
titles like The Neurophysiology of Indifferent, Compatible
Sometimes I wake up at night, impaled by silver, and think about
my brother, far away in Rome. I think how he's found love, and
hurt a lot of people in the process. I also think of my lover in a
small beige room, surrounded by flowering trees. I lie in bed alone,
wearing heavy silver.
"Why don't you take those off when you go to sleep?" my lover
asks, touching the scratch marks on my arms and neck. "For God's sake,
what are you doing to yourself?"
I don't answer, because then I'd have to tell him about the
random silver of his face the day he stepped out to meet me. Your face
was like that , I would have to say to him. Don't you remember?
It was the day before the solstice, people were racing around to
buy presents and you stepped forward to meet me. A week later you gave
me a silver bracelet. A week after that you gave me silver keys. But
none of this would have mattered if your face hadn't been an
A few weeks before she
left for the mountains, she said to him: Do you know that if I touch
you in a certain way, you'll feel like a vole? They were in bed,
reading. She put out her cigarette, touched him softly, and he felt he
had silky fur. He'd never seen a vole, but had an instant understanding
of different gradients of earth, just the way she understood layers of
snow--depth-hoar, crystal-snow-- he'd heard her talk about them. Then
she stroked him with the back of her hand and he was racing along the
ground. What was I then? he asked. You were a fox, she answered. She
was going to snow camp in the mountains alone--that was the
understanding. She was an expert skier, so the separation made sense.
Still, there was tension surrounding her trip because she was going to
ski in country that had avalanches. One night he read a book about
mountain rescue, and realized that all the techniques required another
person. He mentioned this and she said she wasn't afraid. That evening
he watched her pack and had an insatiable desire to follow her. What
animals will you see? he said. I have no way of knowing, she answered.
He persisted, saying that he wanted her to touch him so he could become
each animal on her journey. She said she didn't want to be bothered,
and soon they had a fight in which she said his reading the book about
mountain rescue was a form of meddling and he said he could read any
damn book he pleased. She got into bed and began to smoke. The smoke
reminded him of powder snow--the kind that can cause avalanches. All
that month he thought about her in the mountains, especially when he
was in bed, trying to recreate the feeling of her hands. He thought
about being an animal in that snow, imagined her finding him, a moment
of locked eyes. As soon as she came back, he made her tell him every
animal she'd seen. Foxes mostly, she said. And maybe a few deer. The
usual. She was standing by the closet unpacking clothes, looking
relaxed, a little smug. The animals I expected to see, she added. He
came over and gripped her by the shoulders--at a distance, so he could
see her eyes. They were bright, as though they had seen acres of snow,
great impossible bolts of it, traversing an entire country. He
hesitated, then stroked her lightly, turning her into an animal he'd
never seen. Who am I? she said. I have no idea, he answered. He carried
her to the bed and put her under piles of blankets, an avalanche of
sorts, far away from the mountains. Don't think about anything, he
whispered, everything is known inside the skin.
flash-fiction of Thaisa Frank works "by a tantalizing sense of
indirection", a critic has described. She is the recipient of two PEN
Awards. Her two most recent books of fiction are Sleeping in Velvet
and A Brief History of Camouflage.