The memory is as dark as the night sky that crooks her bedroom windowpane, caught
between moonlight and the reflection of snow outside.

The memory is a blue marble. A secret. Hot as the small fist that grips it.

It is rolling slowly along the living room floor, edging beneath the wrought-iron rail
at the top of the stairs.

The stairs lead to the basement where the father is working, bent scowling over his light box
and drafting table. Or perched on the brown kneeling chair before a canvas.

On the canvas is a naked woman sculpted of blue letters, letters curving tendon and muscles.
Thighs built of letters, swooping calligraphic strokes. Tits of letters. Cerulean. Cobalt.

Child at the top of the stairs when she is not supposed to be, watching.

The father applies more blue paint.

The memory is a hardwood floor.

The memory is a basement that stinks of turpentine.

The blue letter woman on the canvas came to the father in a dream. Her body arcs like the billowing sails of a mythic ship.

The woman is not the child’s mother.

The father says, Don’t tell your mother.

The child doesn’t need to be told.

The memory is a marble held in her mouth. The smooth, hypnotic round and round
of her tongue on glass.

The child swallows the marble.

Or she drops it.

Sudden clatter against wood. Marble rolling then striking, one stair rung and then the next.

Sound after sound after sound.

The father looks up.

The marble stays missing for months, years.

Eventually the child forgets about the marble.

Or she remembers it, but in a way that is built of story and dream, of the dark reach
at the bottom of a pond.

And then one day she finds it again.

She finds it in the dark part of the basement, by the furnace. Or behind the old unused
potbelly stove. By the cast-iron owls with their eyes of staring yellow glass.

It’s that familiar blue, but she doesn’t trust it.

There, in the corner. Near the door to the bomb shelter.

Yes, there is actually a bomb shelter in this basement.

No, that is not a joke, though it sounds like one.

Look, the point of this story is that the child can recognize the blue of that marble anywhere.

It opens something unnamable inside of her.

That endless shade, like the length of an entire night coiled and compressed, pushed harder and harder into itself until it is a jewel she can hold in her hand.

Lock tight in her box of secrets and treasures. With stones from the river. An old penny. A pinecone. A tiny vial of honeysuckle perfume. The seashells and buttons and beads.

This marble she once could fall into, hoping it might carry her somewhere else. A current. A wave.

Later there will be a pale blue blouse. A dark blue skirt. A faint memory of the red couch. Of chambray against cheek. There will be a photograph that makes her queasy. A fear of ink-stained hands and bitten hangnails. Touch blue as electricity.

The metallic taste of shame like a blue marble in her throat.

She finds the marble. She loses the marble. She finds the marble. She loses the marble.

She finds it and loses it so many times she’s no longer sure if that first blue marble ever existed at all.

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