Through a haze reeking of alcohol, I could see your insides. I could see your hands grasping desperately to hold the very end of a rope. Tears poured down your face as you told me of the hands that have always pulled you down when you tried to do something—anything—other than survive while the world wrote poems about you and stood up in coffee shops, shouting into the faces of people who might be you but also might have never, ever held the hand of a person whose insides looked like yours.
Whose outsides look like yours.
Whose latte-colored skin reminded me of swirling hips and bright colors, which in another time and place might have sounded like the marimba or steel drums or a djembe pounding out over the space while you danced (I’m sure you were dancing) and raised your arms (I can feel you raising your arms) to the sky in praise of rain.
The same rain that fell on the women of whom I am made, rain that soaked half of them through their chadors as they protected their hair and faces and honor
And the other half dripping through straw hats as they fed goats and grew tomatoes, necks burning ever redder in the Georgia sunshine.
I want you to know that I cannot feel the difference between us.
I want you to know that when I close my eyes as I hold your hand as you squeeze the raindrops from your eyes as the expert hands of a woman who sounds like my grandmother gently examine the scene of the crime
Probing, looking, gathering every detail
Pictures that I’m sure look like mine. Because I am only a shade lighter than the latte that is your skin. Mine has only a drop more milk.
I saw your shoulders square.
And then I saw them curve inward when you put your hand out to help and winced as you were pushed apart, and put your hand out to stop or to not stop, as your mind fought with that hand and it just stayed there, frozen just above the sheet, holding onto the only thing that had ever been steady.
I cannot feel the difference between us.
In that moment, I wanted to reach my hand into the center of your chest and grab your hand before you let go of the rope. I could see your fingers starting to tremble, your hand slipping off the end of the rope, eyes darting back and forth, trying to hold on, trying to make it look as if nothing was happening, covering your eyes, trying to push the tears back in, hide the raindrops, run.
I reached my hand out.
Insides screaming for you, I grabbed your hand.
I cannot feel the difference between us. I can lift you. Come up to solid ground.