THE FIRST TIME I SAW MY GREAT AUNT GOLDIE WALK through a wall, I was eight. A thick plaster wall, it was lumpy and sea green.
And it needed paint.
Just before storming through the wall, her last words: “I cain’t believe you would lie to me. You, of all people, Zoë Byrd!”
To walk through this wall - which had no door – Goldie first had to pass through a tan, vinyl couch. Which, I suppose, is worth mentioning. But in the haze of my eight year-old remembrance, this feat, for some reason, was not quite as remarkable.
Maybe in the split second that I blinked, the couch had impishly scooted out of, then back in to, place. Or perhaps my wide, pliable eyes had surrendered to a narrow mind which could only have possibly seen Goldie’s octogenarian legs step over – rather than through – the irrefutably immobile couch. However it happened, Aunt Goldie’s transgressing the couch was not what I remember.
What I do so vividly remember happening in Grandpa’s front room that afternoon during the drought of ’86 is this: I did not audibly gasp, that is, until I saw Aunt Goldie’s 4’9”, dark-as-muscadines body (and I don’t quite have the language for this, but I’ll try) - legs, torso, arms; gold teeth; bejeweled, veined hands; and a comet tail of silk, lavender shawl with copper-gray hair – I did not audibly gasp until I saw all of these parts, in one grand defiance of physics, storm forward and dissolve into the sea-green wall.
Though I was certain Goldie and I had been in the room alone (which is the only reason I even attempted to pass off the lie), I immediately jerked my head around for someone – anyone – to attest to what I’d just seen.
The drone of a portable fan. Ragged, tan curtains. Chipped sea-green walls. An empty wooden chair.
One earthly witness: A fat, buzzing housefly, lazily curliqueing, then zooming through a hole in the screen door and out into the August light.
“Zoe!” Grandpa yelled from the front yard. “You alright in there?”
I couldn’t answer.
“Zoe, I said, are you alright?” he yelled again. “Come where I can see you, to the door!”
I brought myself to the screen door, where I found him in the yard, arched over an anthill, holding a gas can-