It’s too early in the day to want for things you cannot have. Those are nightly chants to ruin sleep. It doesn’t matter if you’re little and soft, still shocked at what the world flings at you. You’re not supposed to know everything, just the important bits.
Things that’ll help you survive aren’t the same as the ones that’ll make you happy. People often confuse the two leading to disaster or heartbreak. I won’t go into much detail about the latter. All the stories and poems in the world will not be enough to prepare you for the immensity of longing. It can turn into an illness undetected for months, even years. What a sordid way to perish.
When I was little, I wanted to leave this world in the midst of a heroic deed, in the arms of strangers desperate to get a doctor. Their last words a reassurance that life moved on for someone destined to die. It’s not about cheating death anymore. There are communities that welcome it. Rituals and ceremonies. It’s no longer a funeral but a celebration, a party. I was eleven when I found out that nearing the end of his life, Jonathan Swift mourned his birthday every year. He dressed in black, fervently reading pages from the Old Testament. I believe he got it right.
All this talk about death. It’s putting you off your meal. Or maybe it’s the heat. This city is cursed by the sun. Everytime I ventured out during the day, I returned home, eager to check which parts of me had melted off. I’d stare at myself in the mirror, carefully running my fingers across layers and layers of skin. I imagined peeling it all till only my stomach remained. A ghoul, a haunting. An invisible young bride with a swollen belly, floating from one room to the other. Later, I’d run my fingers across the V of my legs. Let them slide inside till I felt you squirming.
I wonder what you’d want to be when you grow up. My grandmother didn’t understand the fuss about higher studies or getting a job. It doesn’t matter, she’d say, in the end; you’re going to be in the kitchen stirring a pot on the stove. Everything that you need to learn is here within these four walls. I trace patterns on windows, adorn rooms with ancestral furniture, etch names and credentials on utensils. Your grandfather’s cousin used to sing on the radio, both your aunts found religion at forty and then again at sixty-two, your uncle wanted to be a model and refused to discard his last pair of bellbottoms, Affy turned incontinent on this couch, mama whacked me with this pan, daddy flung himself from this staircase. On and on it goes. Our past never dies, baby. It sews itself in the patchwork of our lives and continues to unfold, merging with our present. Remember that.
And remember me. Not as a ghost of a widow. Not at my most damned, in the middle of the kitchen floor, searching for you in a pool of red. Remember me as a full bodied woman.
Exuberant in beauty and strength.
Basking in the glow of first love.
Placing a kiss on my cheek in the mirror.
M.S. enjoys spicy food, strong coffee, character driven movies and all kinds of music. She loves reading and is currently trying very hard to finish Stephen King’s It. Her flash fiction and poetry has been published in various online literary journals and magazines.
Image: Kate Krivanec