I had pieces of heaven growing up. Droplets of time cut from its line and dipped in gold still molten, they’d roll around in stardust till they were so beautiful, anyone would swear it to be fable. But they were real, as she, as me, and as them.
Each letter rolled off my tongue, as if it had always been that I would say her name. “Anna,” I’d whisper to my cloudless sky.
“Anna,” I’d kiss to the flowers at each rest stop.
“Anna,” I’d wish to the fog as we passed through that big bridge; the city always took our clouds from the desert. I imagined because she sang to them, they float down from heaven to be beside her window. Now I blow them westward when I see them coming. She said she loves to fall asleep with the fog outside her window, shading the city lights. She is so lovely when she sleeps.
We took her to summer in Austria, my father needed the help while he put his brother in the ground. My sweetest summer. She took us to the lake every Wednesday, and taught Claribel how to swim. I remember her patience, and the way she held my little sister, whispering confidence into her ear, the same she carried in her spine. It was as if she were pouring pieces of herself into Claribel with every whisper she sang close to her ear. I never knew the secrets they shared, I heard them, but I didn’t know them.
She gave me my own secrets. When I was scared, which so often happened, she’d crawl into bed with me, her lips tickling the top of my ear as she’d say sweet things to me, and hum pieces of songs. It felt like the rocking of the water when you were at sea. The soft lapping of her sweet words hugging the boat, then her chest fell and it was the hum of some distant song lodged in her memory as she battled her tired eyes. Back and forth from lap to fall, until our eyes could no longer win.
I wish she could have held me all night, but she found some hour where she always snuck away. It was an hour I could never be apart of, an hour I didn’t know. When I asked her of it she said it was just for people like her and my father. “It’s when the moon and the sun are both as far away as they’ll ever be, and the stars rule the sky. Desperate people live in those hours. Your father and I know desperation, you do not, as you should not. You sleep with dreams, and you sleep so lovely.”
I thought I found her in that hour once. It was a warm night, she forgot to leave water for me, so I got out of bed. Her bedroom door was open, her curtains tickled the pens on her desk that sat below the window, the night air mixing inside like a cool kiss from the sky. Her dark hair was laid across her pillow, her hand daring to dangle off the side of the bed. I couldn’t be certain if she was breathing, she looked so peaceful, so soft, like an angel in the snow. I wondered if she were dreaming, and no longer desperate in this hour. I wanted to hold her like she held me all those nights, I wanted to let her know she never had to be desperate again, that she could dream, too, with me.
I heard a “tsst” and turned around to see my father in the doorway, he was wearing only sleeping trousers holding water, his back was hot, “rozpustilý kluk,” he said, and motioned me his way. She stirred, but didn’t wake. “What do you do at midnight in Anna’s room? This is no place for you.” My face washed over with disappointment and sadness. I didn’t find her in that secret hour, only midnight, her desperation may live, the angel still stirs. My father caught this look and rested his shoulders, he tucked me into bed, his strong hands nearly lifting me as he slid the sheets under my arms, he set the water beside me. I asked him if she’ll ever find peace, that I want her to find peace, I want to make sure she dreams. He stroked my hair and looked into my eyes with his kind smile. “You must not worry of Anna, she has songs to keep her safe, she sings to herself just as she sings to you. She is well, she does dream, and you should too, můj syn.” He tousled my hair and kissed me on the forehead, then he left, and I dreamed. Of her. Always of her.