TO KEEP THE DARK AWAY
I want you to stop speaking in that voice and speak in your own, said David Nemerov to his seven-year-old daughter, Diane. They were both sitting at the foot of Diane's bed. David was looking at his daughter and Diane was looking at the floor. David said, Last night when I was putting you to bed you asked me if you could pierce your own ears and when I asked you why you said because you wanted your body to feel pain, and then when I asked you to explain what you meant by that, you said sometimes you look at your hand and wonder what it would feel like to have it cut off, and I didn't say anything because I didn't know what to say, but now that I've been thinking about it for the last twenty-four hours I would like you to please further explain what you meant, and I want you to explain it in your own voice, not in that voice you do. Diane looked at her father. Her chin was tucked into her neck, her eyes were watery, and she was smiling. David did not understand what she was trying to communicate. He was confused and then he was scared and a look of terror flashed across his face before he managed to regain his composure. A sense of relief washed over Diane. She had managed to pour what was inside of her into her father. He had, as if by magic, felt exactly like she did. Diane, who would one day be known to the world as Diane Arbus, was, for the moment, nothing but pure light, yet she couldn't wait for the darkness to return, to fill her up, so she could empty it out once again.
Chris Okum lives in Los Angeles. His work has appeared at McSweeney’s, Metazen, The Olentangy Review, Opium Magazine, decomP, and other fine places.