Are you an angel?
I was ten years old when I saw Mrs. Goldthwaite's dog die.
Everybody had gone to the school, but I was sick so I stayed at home. Liza was feeling sick too, and she was old enough to be home by herself, so Daddy said we could take care of each other while he was off at work and we should call the neighbors if anything bad happened. He said I could work on my pictures and Liza could try out some cooking recipe if she didn't use the stove, but she decided to sleep instead.
She slept most of the day, so she didn't hear when the car screeched and then the dog too. But I was in my room with my sketchbook, so I did.
I looked out my window and I saw a car driving off in a hurry, going much faster than it was supposed too, leaving a trail of red behind. I saw that beautiful Golden Retriever, the one that sometimes ate food out of my hand and always seemed to be smiling at me, now collapsed in a bloody mess in the middle of the road.
I remember feeling my hand tighten. Did I think that it was just me making a fist? For a long time, I know I told myself that. I rose from my desk and left the house, and nobody had come for the dog. Nobody was home, or maybe nobody heard. Maybe they were all scared to come and see.
I knelt down by that poor creature. It looked up at me, it's eyes showing me how it was so confused and in so much pain. Looking at me, waiting for me to make it all better.
Did I know that he wasn't my angel?
Did I care?
That evening, Mrs. Goldthwaite spoke with Daddy about her dog. She said there were a bunch of holes in it's body, that it had been not only run over but stabbed several times. And when I went back upstairs to draw some more, my blue colored pencil was broken and it had turned crimson.
When I was seventeen, I met Roger Dunham.
He was everything I wanted. He was strong, he was kind, he made me laugh. I was running late for my English course and I ran right into him, knocking everything out of both our arms. He took all of my things and carried them to my class for me. I suppose that's a little cliché, but I was completely taken by him that day. I knew then that I would marry him, and in five years I did.
Did I know that he would become my angel?
If I had known, would I have stayed?
When I was twenty one, my sisters got in an accident.
Stephanie, Ayako, and Jesicca had gone to a football game together. They were all dating boys from the same school, and they all drove in two cars – one for my sisters, one for the boys. While they were driving, a man ran a stop sign and hit my sisters, nearly killing them all.
They were brought to my hospital, though I wasn't assigned to aid the doctor who was helping them. I was so busy I never even got to see them. Perhaps that was for the best.
One of my friends, a fellow nurse named Leanne, came to me that day holding a file with my sisters' personal information in it. She asked me of those three girls were my sisters, and I said yes. I remember her looking at me a bit confused, and then she asked me if I'd ever married. I told her no, I hadn't.
"So, if you don't mind my asking, why is it that their last names are Ryan-Tenenbaum, but your last name is Ryan-Lutz?"
Had I considered that before? Surprisingly, I had not. Perhaps I had never even known, or never really cared. But that day, I asked Daddy why my last name was different from my sisters.
He looked at me for a while. I think he almost told me, but then he just said that we weren't all biological sisters (which I had known, of course) and that because of that, we didn't always share a last name.
It was a good answer. Perhaps it was the best answer he could give. And when I learned that every single one of my sisters had the same last name, that only mine was something other than Ryan-Tenenbaum, I never questioned him.
Are you my angel?
When I was twenty-eight, Ayako Ryan-Tenenbaum killed my husband.
They never really got along. Ayako was forthright, stubborn, and wanted more than anything to be a real scientist, not just some assistant. Roger was passive, kind, and – I admit it – a bit of a coward in social terms. He was open minded about the more and more powerful feminist movement, but he still held on to some older notions that women weren't quite as capable as men.
She said she was going to college. He wished her the best of luck. He never said anything about her having a handicap, and yet he managed to imply it just enough that she got angry. She yelled, he tried to calm her down by offering his support. I distinctly remember her saying that a person's worth was not based on testosterone production.
Then she threw him against the wall. She never touched him, and he never touched her, and yet somehow he was flying backwards and his head slammed against our marriage portrait. The frame fell shortly after he collapsed to the floor, knocking him in the head and drawing blood.
She was screaming. As much as I want to blame her for Roger's death, I remember that scream and know that what happened next was not what she wanted. She was so terrified...even more so than Roger and myself, perhaps.
Her hand began to blister. She stared at him, her rage dissolving into terror – and I ran at her, knocking her arm away just enough for a burst of fire to sail past my beloved and blast the kitchen table.
She couldn't stop. I remember her screaming as she instinctively moved her hand to her mouth to silence herself, I remember as her hand shot another burst of flame and suddenly she too was engulfed in it, her head blazing like she was some demented torch, I remember as she stumbled into the curtains and those lit up too.
I tried to drag Roger out. I remember thanking whatever god was out there that I could lift him at all, and I remember realizing that I, too, could attempt to harness the Eve inside me, that perhaps I could pull him out that way, if I could keep enough control.
But I couldn't. I ran outside, I reached out with my mind and my arms, I tried desperately to reach my darling, my Roger, my everything, and the fire raged and the smoke rose and the night fell.
On my twenty-ninth birthday, I found my angel.
Daddy took care of the two funerals. Ayako had burned to death in the fire, had been reduced to mere ashes. Liza still has them in an urn at her home.
Roger had not burned to death. The fire had not reached him, because I dragged him far enough away. It was the smoke that killed him, that saturated his lungs until he could no longer fill them with oxygen. The doctors also said that his arm had been crushed. They are not able to explain why, but I think I know.
I tried to keep myself as composed as I could, but it was difficult. My life had no meaning any longer, or so I felt at the time. My dear father consoled me as best he could, and of course I had my sisters, but nothing seemed the same anymore. I asked my father what this thing inside me was, this power that both Ayako and I shared. It was then that he told me about Eve. I remember nothing of that conversation except the name – Eve, Eve, wife of Adam.
The funeral came. Daddy had planned everything perfectly, as he always did, save for one seemingly minor detail. The priest spoke, and Roger's family spoke, and then it was my turn to tell the people gathered there how my husband had been the best person to ever walk the face of this earth. I stood up and walked towards the front, and then I froze.
I could see him, dead in his coffin. Had Daddy told them that the coffin must be closed? Had someone carelessly chosen to open the front half, so that I could see my husband's face, his mouth forever unsmiling, his eyes forever closed?
My heart begged me not to. I felt a whimper rise in my throat, and then a sob, my vision blurred as tears filled my eyes. But even so, I had no choice but to walk forward, no choice but to stand before that corpse.
There was nothing at hand. I remember thinking that. I wanted my needle, I wanted something sharp, I wanted anything. And when I found nothing, I used my own fingernails; if I could not pull the Adam from him, then by god I would RIP it out of him, he would bleed and it would be a mess but damn it all the Adam was all that mattered the Adam was why I was born if I'd had the Adam I could have saved him but at least I could use his Adam to save another the Adam would make everything better the Adam the Adam my beloved angel
I felt a million arms on me, and I passed out.
When I was twenty-nine years old, I learned that the worst master a slave can have is herself.