Knives / Not Knives
The forest is a blank place on the map. On one side is where I live and on the other side is a place I have never been because we cannot go through the forest. People say the forest takes all your
memories so you have to wander around lost forever. We believe this because no one has ever come
back from the forest to prove us wrong. Sometimes someone's dog will run in past the trees and the
owner will not be able to run in after it, even if they love their dog very much. That is how much we
are scared of the forest.
Sometimes I imagine the forest as a collection of sharp knives. I imagine it like this so I remember not to get too close lest I get stabbed in the stomach. I tell my little sister this too. I say "Anna, you will be stabbed a million times in the stomach!" Saying this keeps her away and safe but I must
repeat it many times because she is very young and she forgets to think about things if something
else seems more interesting. One time she went too close to the trees and I yelled very strongly at
her which made her cry. I felt very bad that I had made her cry but also relieved that I had stopped
her from going into the forest. I helped her stop crying before we went back inside because I know
our parents do not like loud noise when it comes from us. Our parents are inside the house, which is
very messy. I try to clean our messy house but there are always needles and weird sticky stuff on
the floor the next day. Our parents have fallen asleep on the couch together. They are slanted to one
side because one half of the couch sinks much deeper than the other. I tilt my head to their angle to
make sure they are asleep. Our father's cigarette is dropping ash onto our mother's shirt. I take the
cigarette from his hand, the hand which has a tattoo of a cat-smile without the cat-body. I add the
cigarette to the others in the tray and I do not burn myself. "Sleep well." I say. I brush the ash from
my mother's shirt and pull a blanket up over half of their bodies. At school Lisa told me it wouldn't
matter if I went into the forest because my parents don't love me anyway. I know this isn't true,
though, because sometimes my mother or father will come into my room very late at night and tell
me how special I am over and over and over again. I make Anna and me a dinner of soft eggs and
then I put her to bed. I tell her a story I make up about a princess who knew to stay away from the
knife forest. I tell her the princess had a rabbit as I know Anna loves rabbits the most. I say that the
rabbit lived only in her bedroom so she was never in danger of going into the forest and forgetting
how much she loved the princess.
When I wake up in the morning Anna is not in her bed. I run outside and after twenty minutes of looking I can still not see Anna anywhere. I am very upset and I keep thinking about knives. I go back inside to gather supplies for a much larger search. I get a rope untangled from deep inside the
closet and this is when I hear rustling from the attic. In the attic there is Anna, dusty on the floor. I
remember very hard that I should not shout at her even though my heart is pounding like
knivesknivesknives. She tells me she is looking for the princesses' rabbit. In a very calm voice I tell
her the rabbit wants her to come downstairs for breakfast before school. I tell her this even though I
know there is no rabbit.
At school everyone is excited because there is going to be a party at Bobby's house. He has invited everyone, even me. At home I look in our mother's wardrobe and choose a dress. It is very short
and very tight. I think it looks beautiful and that I look like a proper grown up person. I feed Anna
and then tell her to go to bed even though it is too early. She does not complain because most of the
time she loves me even more than she loves rabbits. At the party I have a drink someone gives me
in a plastic cup, I do not like the taste and so I refill my cup with water. Bobby comes to find me, he
is speaking very loud and not walking straight. He takes my hand with his hand which is warm and
moist. He tells me he wants to show me something and we walk up the stairs which makes my dress
inch up and up and up my thighs and I keep needing to pull it back down. The we are alone and
Bobby's face is very close to my face. I can see how some hairs over his lip are growing thicker. "I
like tragic girls," he is saying. This does not make sense to me. He does not say anything else
because now we are kissing. I feel very special because someone is paying attention to me. I think
about how it would be better if the word tragic was not involved. His almost moustache pokes into
my skin and I think about the forest as knives. Bobby's hands are moving around my chest and I'm
thinking TRAGIC like that, in all capitals in my head.
I am walking home from school with Anna. There is a boy who is telling us our clothes smell and he is holding his nose and pointing at us. I am ignoring him very well. Anna says "There is
something wrong with that boy's face, should we help him?" When she says this it makes my heart
feel too small to hold all the love I have for her. I tell her that sometimes, if you are not a very nice
person, it makes your face go all weird. I make my face go very scrunched up and mean, which
makes Anna laugh and then she tries it too. She is stomping around in her boots which I know are
too small and I hope she is not hurting her feet. Past her I see a rabbit in the field. It is very still and its ears are very long. I put my hand on Anna's shoulder like I have seen some adults do with their
children. She stops and I point out the rabbit for her. Anna can run very fast, almost faster than the
rabbit. I have taught her to do this so that we can escape when our parents start throwing things
because 'there is no fucking money.' Anna is running there-is-no-fucking-money fast and I am
running after her. Then the rabbit runs into the forest and Anna runs into the forest and then I am
screaming really loudly. I can not see Anna through the knives. I start crying even though I am
mostly an adult. I think about having to go home without Anna. I think about going home to only
my parents on the couch that looks like a sinking ship, just sleeping or staring, staring, staring. I am
sobbing so loud I think I will stop breathing. I am at the edge of the forest and I do not want to go
home without Anna so I run through the leaves and branches like 'not knives, not knives.' I repeat
An-na, An-na, An-na, in time with my footsteps in case the forest really does steal my memories
and I forget that I am looking for her.
An-na, an-na, an-na, I think as I walk. I have been doing this for as long as I can remember. I think it sounds very nice and it helps me to walk for long periods of time without noticing. I get some berries for breakfast and drink a little from the stream. There are some flowers that look very pretty so I am walking over to them and this is when I see a girl. She has something that I can't quite see
sitting in her skirt.
"Hello," I say.
"Hello," says the girl. She sees me looking at the moving thing in her lap.
"It's a rabbit!" She seems very happy about her rabbit and so I feel happy for her.
is a New Zealand born, France-based writer whose work can be found in PANK, Litro