Category Archives: family

hartley

Cecilia roamed barefoot through Hartley’s room, looking for it. Every few minutes she felt dizzy and had to sit down on the pink carpet.

She had eaten wheat crackers with blueberry jam and water with a teaspoon of sugar for three days straight. She liked the process of painting the crackers and soiling the water. She liked the repetition. She liked digging the crackers into the roof of her mouth and licking the small sores that formed.

After about seven attempts, she found it — the clay angel she had made for Hartley. The angel had asymmetrical pink wings, a red sun face, and blue and purple flower patterns in its center. Cecilia held the angel in the middle of her chest, inhaling sharp, staccato breaths. She remembered the way Hartley’s smile reached her eyes as she traced the patterns with her fingers. It was the first time Cecilia had seen Hartley happy since their parents had explained what metastasize meant.

Cecilia laid her head onto the pink carpet that still smelled like Hartley. She dug the three edges of the left wing into her hand. She watched the pale circles they traced onto her skin reappear and disappear.

She went to the kitchen hours later to have dinner. She heard her voice, soft and squeaky, respond to her parents’ questions. Yes, she would eat the chicken and yellow rice. No, she wanted to eat alone. No, she didn’t want to talk about it. No.

She stood in the doorway until she heard their bedroom door click shut. She put the chicken and rice into a ziplock bag. She opened the back door halfway, so that it wouldn’t creak. She untied the black plastic bag in the trash can outside and slid the food in the middle of it. She wiped her hands against her pants, and ashamed about what the angel had just witnessed, she whispered sorry before she went back inside.

She sat the clay angel on the leather kitchen chair and then sat in the chair across from it. She had to push her chair a foot away from the table to see the tiny angel. She made wheat crackers with blueberry jam and water with a teaspoon of sugar. She liked the repetition. She painted, soiled, and chewed, noting that if she tilted her head at a slight angle, tears crept in her mouth and dulled the metallic taste of blood the sores caused.

–lissa


come back to me


photo
originally uploaded by Emily Ruth.

***

dear s.

i wonder about the things that made you lose yourself in darkness. how did it feel when you were drifting? did you try to fight it or did you want it to envelop you so that you didn’t have to hurt anymore?

i understand why you would always say that you just didn’t have it in you to be with me. i feel exactly the same way now. i feel myself drifting outside my body, trying to fly as far away from myself as possible. maybe i could get to paris if i try really hard.

remember our trip there? only you and i would go to paris and barely leave the hotel room. that first night the wine made me so numb. i started to sashay around the bed singing edith piaf songs in my strong brooklyn accent. you laughed so hard you spit some of your crepe onto the rug. we almost found a way to be happy then.

drifting out of myself and finding you is just as bad as being stuck with myself — frustrated longing seeps out of your pores too.

sometimes i feel like i’m the farthest away when i lie in bed with our son. he rests on my chest, his middle and index fingers lovingly in his mouth. we fall asleep in unison, whatever made him sad disappearing, whatever makes me sad reluctantly at bay, unable to compete with the wonderful smell of baby.

he said dada the other day. i went numb, transported to the day when i would have to tell him about you. thankfully, by the end of the week, he had said it to me, the mail man, the cartoon character in the television. come back before it’s too late. i know he could make you stay.

yours,
em.

–lissa


burnt fried over hard abandonment

photo originally uploaded by Pockafwye.

***

a little girl
used to being
her own playdate
tried to fry an egg on the sidewalk
the yellow yolk dancing
on the pavement with petals
that had abandoned a daisy.

away from the heat
and their spouses,
a man and woman
showered together,
shyly wiping
soap bubbles off
of each other’s backs.

two pretty boys in striped
shirts, suspenders and church
hats waited for the bus.
“maybe momma will come home today,”
the younger boy whispered,
his face a soft caramel from the sun.
“no, she hates poppa more than she loves us,”
the older boy answered,
his hat and the sun making
shadows skip across his face
as he gripped the bag she had
left behind under his arm tighter.

–lissa


family picture day

It was family picture day. The day when Momma chain smoked at the breakfast table ruining the scrambled eggs, French toast, and Poppa’s mood. The day when she forced me and my sister to wear frilly dresses and braid our hairs. The day when she paid more attention to us than to Poppa and talked to us and made us feel beautiful. The day when Poppa tried to hide in his office to avoid Momma’s insisting that he not wear his usual t-shirts and actually get dressed up today for the sake of the family.

The day when we would smile for so long that our cheeks hurt. I would pinch my sister’s cheeks and she would pinch mine and the pain only got worse. The photographer would yell encouraging words to us as though we were his fashion models.

We would go home from the photo place, tired and worn out, eating Italian Ices, unable to ignore the silence in the car. Momma would grab another cigarette from her bag and Poppa would tell her not to smoke in the car. We would finally reach home and me and my sister would run to our room, turning up the music so that we wouldn’t hear them arguing.

— lissa