by LEVI ANDREW NOE
I was the boy who ran out of the house on Thanksgiving to knock on every neighbor’s door.
“Can I have your wishbone?” I asked them one by one.
Every face that looked back at me was a mixture of confusion, amusement and pity. I got the wishbones. I think because they knew I would not leave their doorstep until I had watched them at least try to appease me. I brought them all back home and began to construct a wishing artifact. It was all the wishbones I had found, 14, strung together with dental floss. My family looked at me the same way all the neighbors did, though there was a more furrowed knot of understanding in their eyebrows, and deeper creases of worry around their lips.
I wore the wishbone necklace for weeks after, until Carla Burgeon ripped it off my neck and stepped on it, crushing each and every wish. I think I can pinpoint that moment as the defining turn in my life. The bone-crunching fall of grace. The snapping of innocence, and hopes, and dreams. I have never forgiven her, even though her mother died in middle school in a car accident, even though she became fat and pimply and unpopular in high school. I truly believe that the wishbone necklace was like some sacred relic, some protective amulet. It held my hopes in frail bird bones. It encircled my self in a ring of power and possibility. I had no knowledge of magical rites or incantations when I made the necklace, but there is a stronger, deeper river of alchemy stemming from a child’s purposeful, unconscious acts. Unknowingly I had fused my pure, child self into the wishbones, unwittingly Carla had been the demon of ravaged virtue and desolation.
I did not know at the time that a part of my soul had been shattered. The changes that shed their way through me were subtle, embedding their poison in me gradually over the years. Two twisting snakes of shadow and fate coiled around me, slipped through me and possessed me. It was at the age of 14 when I saw the first inevitable hiss of the darkness in me. I was walking home from school, it was a gray day bitten by the freeze and silence of winter. I first smelled it, it hit like a whip because it was warm and acrid and foul. I looked down, I could actually see steam coming off the pile of feces at my feet. I looked up to see the dog who had left that rotten pile of himself behind wagging away through the park. With no conscious thought or intention I found a shard of ice and I lifted the pile off the ground. The smell was ripe and sickening, but something in me was dancing and rejoicing in it. I walked with careful, winter-practiced steps to the door of a boy from school. This boy had never wronged me, he was actually a friend in the forgotten days of elementary school. But now he was teased and shunned and I had no pity in my heart for him.
I still remember opening his screen door with the stealth of a practiced assassin. I smeared dog poop on his door handle, on his door step, and what was left of the mess I placed in the mailbox. Afterwards, I walked away as nonchalant as I had been walking before, maybe even more calm and confident. And I was whistling a tune.
There are some who say that life is a choice. Every day, every moment we decide who we are and whether we shall walk the path of darkness or light. I find no such free will. My course was laid out for me, my choices serve only to darken light in every act. I do not know what I would have been had my wishbone necklace not suffered its wrathful fate. Or had I never been possessed by the innocent desire to knock on my neighbor’s doors that Thanksgiving, begging for their unused, disregarded wishes. I can only speculate that the shadow side of life had plans for me from the very beginning and I have no say in my own freedom.
As the years crept by I gave in to the snakes’ venom. I could not find the strength to overcome their bidding and so I found myself parking in residential zones, not tipping for coffee, and lying about what I had done over the weekend. Small, harmless things, or so they may seem, but the devil is in the details. And the details of my life were amassing into an unholy scripture of black verses. When I left my gum behind in drinking fountains, or worse, when I spit from the tops of high places, imagining someone’s head as the landing zone. When I passed gas in the elevator and let the poor child holding his mother’s hand take the blame. And the countless times that I pressed the handicap button to open doors for me.
It is no proud memoir I write of my life’s accomplishments. I speak only to release the tar and poison, though only for a moment. Even now as I write I feel the cold, dead grip of sloth and fear clutching at me. This life’s path is the blade of a knife. Stay on the narrow path, lest you find my fate.
LEVI ANDREW NOE was born and raised in Denver, CO. He is a writer, a yogi, an entrepreneur, and an amateur oneironaut. Levi won first prize in 2011 and 2013 in Spirit First’s international poetry competition. His most recent or forthcoming works are in Ink, Sweat & Tears, Connotation Press, Boston Literary Magazine, Crack the Spine, Eunoia Review, and Scrutiny Journal. He is the editor in chief and founder of the podcast Rocky Mountain Revival, Audio Art Journal. Twitter: @LeviAndrewNoe, @RockyMtnRevival