What This Is

This is an Accident

He is a bastard, they say. Born in Connecticut to a father who loved cigarettes more than he loved his son, and a mother who didn’t love herself. A barren ring finger and an empty bank account bred a childhood of windowless bedrooms, and unmoving lumps under a heavily blanketed queen bed.

He drives his mother to work each morning at the dilapidated nursing home, where he will later pick her up at 5:00 p.m.; her hands will be cracked and dry and her shoulders will sag with ache. The in-between time is where he spends her money on an education he isn’t sure he wants.

He pretends to study, and he pretends to care. He pretends to sleep at night and he pretends not to resent the woman whose eyes are perpetually red and barely able to hold herself up each day. He pretends not to mind that she loved his DNA provider more than she loves him.

She pretends not to hate the fact that he looks like him. She pretends not to notice the disgusted grimaces he gifts her with as he helps her wash her hair. She pretends not to hate him as much as she hates herself.

On Saturday mornings, his mother doesn’t work, so he drinks a beer and splashes it on the gearstick as he tries to drive one-handed. He passes the ‘Welcome to Connecticut’ sign and raises a finger as the billboard grows smaller in his review mirror—the metal back slick with leftover rain. His hands sticky with alcohol. The steering wheel that moves on its own.

He is an accident. So is this.

 

This is Hunger

She is a skilled liar, and she knows it. She plays boys, like she plays chess, well and enviable. She lies in other people’s beds all day and drinks Coca-Cola and chews piña colada gum. Delicate hands roam her shoulder blades and her sunken belly button. She notices the lumps that fingers graze over as they scan her Italian hips and dimpled thighs. She sucks in her breath and pretends to be nothing. To weigh nothing. To sink into the grimy mattress and disappear into the thin, cold springs.

Her stomach grumbles and it’s all she remembers about the day. It’s Tuesday and she drinks a coffee and watches the slender redhead at the table by the window eat an apple Danish with a grin on her face that could feed the homeless.

I am selfless, she says, as she leaves the coffee shop with her low-fat air and hazel eyes. I am saving them for others. Others, who need them more than I do.

I am selfish, she says, as she hides the chicken breast and cauliflower and potato croquets into napkins and couch cushions and garbage bags in the back of her closet.

I am not hungry, she says. She is full, as she makes her way to the restroom.

 

This is Today

Restlessness flows through her veins, and her heart beats too fast for her rib cage to keep up. Nausea clings to the corners of her mouth. She hates the way she is. Yesterday was fine, but today is bitter and cold. Her fingers feel stiff, and the hours of the day tick by like heavy lead.

The world is too big of a problem for her to solve, let alone anyone else’s. Sticky fingers and snotty noses beg for love and safety. She sits in her cold car with frozen spider webs that cling to the corners of her windshield. She takes medicine that does nothing more than provide routine. Routine is good, except that it’s a natural born liar. It makes so many promises—provides even more letdowns.

She sleeps until her body feels groggy. The lethargy, a permanent part of her, like her knee or elbow. If you sliced her open, a cloud of exhaust would rise from her chest and envelope the city in sleep. It is the only time that her heart doesn’t race. The only time her hands don’t shake in her pockets. The only time breathing is enjoyable. It’s the only time that her mind doesn’t seem to hate her.

But the tiny humans still cry and cling to her skirt. Sometimes they are quiet, but not often. Yesterday she smiled, though she can’t remember why. But it is not yesterday, it is today. Each day is a gamble. A guessing game. A battle against her mind and the butterflies attacking the knots in her stomach. Today is today, and she wishes it wasn’t.

She is not a sad person. But she isn’t happy, either. She can’t quite remember what being happy feels like. Foreign and intangible. Something she doesn’t deserve. Happy people deserve happiness, and she isn’t happy.

Alysha DePerna lives in Rochester, NY, and is a recent graduate of St. John Fisher College. A writer by day and a reader by night, she is loathe to discuss herself in the third person, but can be persuaded to do so from time to time. She enjoys reading obscure novels and correcting people’s grammar.

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