With These Hands

We took a Ouija board to the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. She said we had to take our clothes off out of respect. 146 women died here, making garments. The least we could do was sacrifice this one basic comfort. We locked ourselves in and put both hands on the plastic planchette, but it never moved because we forgot to ask questions. She said empathy is when you feel what another person felt, so we lit a candle and held our hands over it until our skin turned black, which happened faster than she had planned. She said she knew it. We could never feel what they really felt and should try something different. I told her it was okay, that they were dead now and weren’t feeling anything, so maybe we should try empathy with something else. She looked at me and at the Ouija board. She thought of all the dead people she knew. We’re going to do this the other way, she said. She moved our black, blistered fingers back onto the board and began to spell things out. May your hands work only for love. May we always remember that clothes are where things begin and where they end. May the next world be only water.

Jessica Probus is a southerner living in Brooklyn. Her work has made itself at home in various places, including McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Word Riot, and The Rumpus