"Rose," said Donald.
"Donald," said Isabel.
"Rose, how are you?"
"I am as you are." The words felt like an embrace to Donald. They suggested that there was someone else in the world who felt as he did.
"Rose, I'm frightened."
"Do you think a leaf is frightened of falling?"
"Yes," thought Sarah, watching from the first row. "Yes I do."
"Isabel?" asked Miss Roc. "Can you understand me?"
"Yes. Do you think you are difficult to understand?"
"Um no, not at all. Do you remember being taken away from your family?"
"What was it like?"
"It's like watching yourself with your own eyes. It's like being inside yourself twice."
Miss Roc had no idea what she was talking about. Donald knew: she was talking about remembering.
"Um was it painful?"
"I'm fine," said Isabel without the usual conversational lilt.
"But back then, at that moment, was it painful?"
"Which moment? You are sifting through sand for sand."
"She is dissociated from her emotions," explained Dr. Alfaal.
"Was it painful while it happened?" continued Isabel. "But I didn't know what was happening. Was it painful later when I couldn't figure out what happened? Was it painful before it happened, when everything was exactly the same except for this one thing that hadn't happened yet?"
"Were you sad, Isabel?" asked Miss Roc, frustrated. What kind of retardation was this?
"Why are you looking for pain and sadness?" asked Isabel.
"Well, because we are talking here about a child being taken away from her parents. You were abandoned by your parents."
"You ask me all these questions, but you have already decided everything."
"Well, you tell me, then. You tell me what happened."
"When I was born I left the womb, but I never separated from God."
Miss Roc scowled. Isabel was not TV-friendly like her brother. She wasn't even making sense. Plus, she was way too relaxed. Where was the tension, the excitement? What more tense and exciting thing could Miss Roc have prepared for her than this? But she wasn't giving up yet.
"Why did your parents send you away?"
"They were afraid."
"There is only one truth."
"What is it?"
"Look inside yourself."
Miss Roc gave up. "Mr. Uffizi, why were you afraid of this child?"
"I wasn't afraid. She didn't talk proper. She wasn't proper."
"What do you mean, not proper?"
"Just saying the wrong things for the wrong situations. Making things up, terrible things so clear, writing them down. Writing in the wrong places."
"That tree," said Miss Roc.
"What did she write in that tree, Mr. Uffizi?"
"Well, not much point in me chopping down that tree just to blab it out on TV."
Miss Roc felt she had never worked so hard before in her life. "Isabel," she said tiredly, "what did you write on that tree?"
"Yes, Isabel, but what were the words you wrote on that tree, the actual words?"
"I chopped that tree down," said Mr. Uffizi, and then right behind his loud words came Isabel's clear steady voice.
"The only sound in the night is the fluttering of white moths and oh yes the clink of Uncle Buck's belt buckle."
"What are you saying?" asked Miss Roc.
"You leave Buck out of this!" shouted Mr. Uffizi, quite red.
"I'm telling you the words I wrote on that tree."
"Oh, oh my God," said Miss Roc, "continue."
"Listen," said Mr. Uffizi, "don't you think we put her away for a reason? You think these things happen for no reason?"
"Mr. Uffizi, these are her words. Let her speak them."
"I burned her words," he replied as Miss Roc signaled an assistant producer to have his mike turned off.
"I feel this wonderful tree on my back, its coarse living bark. I feel its deep pulse, so much slower than mine, that flows through our generations. I see Uncle Buck's smile, born of a momentary pain. He seems so big that I feel like I am trapped between two trees. I see something just a few inches below my eyes that I have never seen before. It must be a penis. It seems strange to me that there is a part of the body I have not seen, but then again there are parts inside I have never seen. Or maybe it seems strange because it's a part that I do not have. 'You're mine,' he says. 'I want you.'"
Isabel had silenced everyone. She had even silenced their minds.
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