Five Points, Vol. 8 No. 1Winter 2004
From Richard Bausch, “For a time, I went around with the suspicion that I might be a writer, exactly the way some kids go around wondering if they’re adopted- I mean, it wasn’t as if I would choose it. I was, you know, doing it all the time, so it was more as if I was questioning whether or not it was part of my nature.”
Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair
In every story in which there are two sisters, one is always prettier. One wants the world served up on a platter while the other longs for nothing more than a rose. My sister, Huley, was the pretty one; you’d think she would have been selfish as well, but I was the one who was greedy. I wanted things I never should have begun to imagine I deserved. I was an ugly girl who lived in an old white house with my father and my sister, but in my mind I was something more. I read books as though I was eating apples, core and all, starved for those pages, hungry for every word that told me about things I didn’t yet have, but still wanted terribly, wanted until it hurt.
My mother had named me Violet, most likely because of the blotchy thing on my face, a birthmark in the shape of a flower, blue in cold weather, hideous and purple in full sun; when the heat made me sweat the mark stood out more than ever, bumpy and blistering, filling me with shame. My mother was kind-hearted, but she died of a fever when I was seven and my sister was only five. I liked to think she was leaving me a blessing when she gave me such a beautiful name; I believe she assumed my pretty sister had no need for anything more than a name that would have suited a mule.
I did most of my reading in the barn, where our horses were kept. I thought of books and hay together, a single sweet parcel. There was no line drawn between the soft snuffling of horses breathing and the glorious worlds I most likely would never see. I read Greek myths. I read about far off places, Venice and Paris. I read about men who searched for things they could not find at home, and women who fell in love with the wrong person and waited for the arrival of their beloved for so long that a year was no different than a single day. The same thing was happening to me. Years were passing. I was already a woman, and I still wasn’t done reading. When my father and my sister went to sleep, I would sneak away from the house, taking a lantern. The horses didn’t startle when they heard me. They were used to me. Maybe they enjoyed the sound of turning pages; maybe it made the taste of hay rise in their mouths. When I stretched out with my book in the pool of yellow light, I could hear the hum of the bees in the hive perched on the crossbeam above me; a thousand wings flapping in unison, and I’d think I’m alive. I’m alive.