Smokeless black flames burn her skin ice-cold with memory. She sloughs and becomes all muscle and sinew, bone and blood. The fire surrounds her and drifts up her body, engulfing toes, ankles, knees, her waist, her stomach, her heart, her mouth, her eyes and forehead until the fire and she are one. She opens her arms as if to fly, spreading her hands wide, and darkness leaps from her fingertips. In a flash of pitch-brilliance, she and I experience all that has come before and all that is soon to be. The past, the present, and the future comingle like a coil.
And we see everything . . .
Dawn, 10 years ago . . .
Drifting down down down and spinning as if on a thread in dizzying turns, the invisible strand that connects me delicately unravels as I join with you in your act of becoming. I will share with you in this, your dangerous journey, because I cannot bear to allow you to do this alone. Into your memory we travel together, and of all the strange corners of the world where we could land, we find ourselves in a kitchen.
So many sensations, strange but not unpleasant, envelop us. So much stimuli to delight and intoxicate. Warmth emanates from a cooling stove. The scents of drying leaves that hung along the walls fragrance the air. The aromas of the spices and mint, and the grassy freshness of the herbs growing on the windowsill or neatly labeled and placed on shelves, waft through my incorporeal skin. And yet I also sense unease, a darkness looming from every corner and shadowed crevice. Memories can be like this—ghostly and unsteady, a little bit true, a little bit false disconnected, then joining to create image and form.
You appear out of the ether. Both of you. Mother and child. Deidra and you. Cora, with your soft, puffy body and two small, awkwardly protruding points pushed up against the front of your frock, make a very unlikely harbinger of the days to come. Only your eyes cause one to stop and consider. They are wide and inquisitive, with irises of amber outlined in mahogany, and your stare penetrates, infusing the onlooker with the strong desire to turn away.
All is stillness as I move about the kitchen, then the room morphs into activity. The clinking of dishes. The tender steps of the child clearing the table. The wish-wash of moving water as the mother earnestly washes the dishes. A strange tension lingers in the air. Were they mad at each other? Has the child done something wrong? She seems so timid as she stands behind her mother holding a bowl cupped in both hands while the mother bends over the sink. Moments pass in agonizing lengths as the two remain like this: one standing, quietly beseeching attention, and the other ignoring her presence. For a while I wonder if the mother knows that the child is there. A slight nod of her head and a grunt makes it clear that she knows. The child, finally given permission to approach, carefully places her bowl on the counter.
Mother bemoans, “After a long day of work I still have to do all this.”
Reprinted courtesy of Jennifer Marie Brissett.
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