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     We shared a wall when we were kids. It was about 10 feet high and a couple bricks thick, covered in haphazard, half-dead ivy. Rough, red, solid, but crumbling, a bit pathetic when you thought about it, but we never did.

     It’s gone now, and I can see my parents’ old house clearly from this table in your backyard, where we sit sneaking cigarettes, away from the others.

     (Of course, my childhood home is no longer mine, or my parents’. They sold it and moved to Arizona, and the new owners have turned it into something lovely and modern and generic, too nice a place for me to have grown up in.)

     I’m staring at the empty space where the wall was, and I ask you what finally convinced your parents to tear it down.

     You laugh (a weak, but real laugh, which is somehow sadder than crying) and explain that the stupid thing belonged to my parents, not yours. The new owners tore it down after they moved in, didn’t even warn your mom and dad.

     I look at my old house again, and it seems obvious now that the old wall wouldn’t fit. This new home is light and airy and

     “Open-concept,” you say.

     Yes, that’s the word, and it somehow fills me with rage. I sip my wine, scowling, hating all of this. Bitter at the thought of everything new, even design styles, which makes no sense, except that

     Your mother has just died, and we both loved her, love her, and we are both still around, still alive, and it is our right to be angry at all the changes that have piled up in the last few decades.

     I ask if you remember that time you dared me to jump, and I finally did, and you somehow broke your arm trying to catch me. We never explained, just let people believe you were the idiot who jumped, rather than my hero, my safety net, (my only friend back then).

     You smile now (in that strained heartbroken way I’ll see so many times over the next few years) and remember how mad your mom was when she saw you, gruesome and crying and proud, and how she had never spoiled (pampered, openly cherished) you as much as she did that day.

     And I don’t know how I thought speaking of a wall or even the space where a wall used to be, could be neutral, or safe. This whole place is too much, too full of everything she touched, including us. Useless, I offer you another cigarette, as you fall a bit further into your grief, and I try to pull myself out of my own, just enough to help you withstand the next few moments.

OPEN CONCEPT

OPEN CONCEPT

M. Roanoke

Author Bio: M. Roanoke is a queer folk artist based in Kansas City, Missouri. Their works appears or is forthcoming in Rejection Letters, Versification, Misery Tourism, and elsewhere. They are on Twitter @Roanokeoke.

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Dead Skunk Logo: round logo of a white skunk silhouette on a black background with the words “Dead Skunk” in cursive. “Dead” is neon purple and “Skunk” is neon yellow.

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