Kitsune no Yomeiri
When my sister was dying on a ventilator thousands of miles away, I tried to astral project to her every night: eyes closed, palms up, back flat.
When my sister was dying, I felt the urge to fuck—not make love to—my partner. I would tell him, “I need to do this because if I don’t do it now—before—then we might not touch. Not for a hundred years.”
When you are about to lose someone, you do not cry when you think you might cry.
When you are about to lose someone, you watch the palms of your hands shake.
Picture this scene: I am seven and my sister is twelve. I am in her bed, even though I have a bed. She tells me stories beneath a pillow fort of bed sheets tied to bed posts held by rubber bands. She tells Japanese folklore and about sun showers or Kitsune no Yomeiri, and how if there is a sun shower then there is a fox wedding. When she is asleep my soul roams the house, but I never go far. When I am asleep, I dream of moss and fallen branches and of foxes garnished with eggshell laces.
When my sister was dying, I texted her every day:
Today, Harry and I made an ant friend.
We went dumpster diving for the new apartment.
I am scared of this virus, of Harry catching it, of you never waking up.
When my sister was dying, I paced my kitchen after calling my mother and father several times with no answer. I left my body, watched myself call their numbers and tried to be with them as they stood helplessly in a room looking through glass at my sister.
I texted my partner, I can feel it. I could feel her soul wax and wane and in turn my body, like a magnet to the south, pull toward her. Harry, who was four, held my face and told me to sleep. He read to me, even though he couldn’t read from an open book that never turned, with fingers that spiraled the page.
When we were kids, my sister and I made a pact to die at the same time. She had checked out a book of spells from the library—it was the nineties—and we tried to do a blood pact that involved our blood and the liver of a goat. We couldn’t get our mom to buy the liver and we were too scared to draw blood, so we made a powerful pinky promise.
“If I die, you die.”
When my sister was dying, I could feel my soul in my chest flicker each night. My mattress would slip beneath me and my partner’s breath would grow farther and farther away. But still, I could not see her.
From seven onward my sister and I would always acknowledge Kitsune no Yomeiri. When she moved away to college, she would text me to say:
It’s a sun shower here.
What a perfect day for a fox wedding.
I was not able to see her struggled breaths in a gray hospital room or be beside her. I could not see my mother waiting, swollen-faced and scared behind glass looking into her hospital room, because the virus was new and scary and spreading like fallen rice.
I send my sister videos of my son dancing in our almost empty apartment. Of drawings and comics I made of her and me. Of news articles and letters I’d collected from all of her friends that love her. I was the last to write her a letter.
When my sister was dying, I understood what that pact meant. Death to the body was one thing, death to the soul was another. My parents finally called me back to tell me that a priest had come to see my sister that day that I called and called. I imagined a preacher reading scripture from a religion that wasn’t hers. I imagined she was in the Gulf, in an empty mall, in a forest picking snails off leaves.
MCKENZIE ZALOPANY is an MFA student at the University of South Florida. Her work has appeared in New Plains Review, Tulane Review, and elsewhere.