In the hallway across from their door a glass aquarium housed ten or more rats to be sold as pets. In addition to the pet business, Jessie’s mother was a part-time amateur body builder who managed a large and impressive athletic club.

The walls were painted rental-home white and had an inherent darkness with a piss-yellow glow that came from the kitchen. In Jessie’s bedroom, board games toppled onto each other spilling out of a disorganized closet to the foot of twin mattresses push against each other where she and her sister Ellie slept.

Every night the girls, who were four years apart in age, sleep intertwined. The younger sister was a thumb sucker and like most thumb suckers she paired her habit with the physical rubbing of something soft between her fingers. She rubbed the velvety soft earlobes of people. And the touch of her tiny fingers became a welcome comfort to me on the nights I stayed.


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