ISSUE 4 · SPRING 2010
I Keep a Vine Woven
Basket by the Door
It sits like mahogany veins twisted into themselves—a hollow of wooden pulmonary. Beneath the basket rests a Rubbermaid wet mat, sky blue, and I lay in it my twisted head ripped from its shoulders, snapped from its spine. Afterward, air moves freely like the removal of too-tight ruby heels at the end of the day. I have no business wearing such things on such days. Ruby heels are for gold brick days.
I sit the head in the vine woven basket to drain. Its neck oozes tensions from busy drive sits, wait sits, stuck-in-traffic-and-rage sits.
. . .
Drive the poor dog laying so still in its cardboard box bound for the child-sized cemetery with stones stacked teetering on the other end of town. Find a pretty place on the edge. Where there is no headstone. Dig. Dig with the rusted spade that he left. Sit in the dirt and cry with elbows on knees bent so that you can smell the fresh turned earth. Cry so hard that eyes blur and face streaks black with mascara dripped into the hollow of a button shirt stained white to gray, and the black runs down between narrow breasts making a black line to the horizontal lip of fat rimmed at the wool tweed waistband. It tickles. A low rumble jiggles the box making the air smell of kibble. Dig. Lift the cold body, now firm, from the box because the cardboard is somehow unnatural. Lower the body gently then drop it because the depth is too far to reach. Sit some more with face pushed against sweaty palms filling with blisters, these hands that just dropped a dead friend. And no one will ever know. Lay, on top of the body, a card that reads Lily—Lily, child of mine. I did not know you. Here you can rest with a friend—and dig into the already dug pile of earth, chopping at clumps of sod, wishing the frost hadn’t yet come so the digging would be easier. Pour the dirt onto the golden fur. Pour the dirt onto the card that reads Lily. Pour until they are gone, the dog and the card, the card being the worst because it is made of snow white linen paper. It had to be snow white.
It is a man’s job, digging. A hard job.
Yes, I said it out loud, inside my head.
. . .
The sky blue mat turns crimson from the bloody thoughts dripping out of my head. By day, sunbeams shine through the transom window and bake the blood. By week’s end, the basket and mat stink of digging and dropping things and menial things, too, like yes, that skirt does make your ass look big and no, I can’t come to your party because I don’t know how to talk to you; I don’t know how to talk to anyone which leads back to the digging things: Stop your damn dog from barking because I don’t have time for barking dogs that remind me of the one I held in my arms, stroking its golden fur while the veterinarian injected poison into its veins, and while you’re at it, keep your children inside because they remind me of the life I’ve lost, and I hate you because you don’t know these things. I hate you because I hate myself for not knowing how to tell them.
On Saturday, I’ll hose the mat down; let the blood of the basket and the mat wash out and into the backyard grass, into the dirt for the earthworms to eat. Then I’ll scrub the mat with Clorox bleach. My fingers will turn raw and pink. The basket? I’ll spray it with Lysol, citrus scent, even though I know the blood will still be there. By Monday morning, when the antiseptic and citrus odor fades, I will smell the blood as I walk out the front door.
But the blood keeps oozing, and Saturday is four days away. Like steamed asparagus, blood rises in mists dewing the skin of my head’s cheeks and the antique mirror above it, tinting them both pink, so I remove my head from its basket and wipe it with the green, white-checked dishtowel. I never liked that towel anyway. He left it behind when he moved out, when I pushed him out, when he left me because I needed him to leave.
While screwing my head back onto its neck, I sit on the bottom stair and watch the deep crimson thoughts laying in the mat steam up in swirls, like mists from a mountain top. They rise to the ceiling then hover, turning to crimson clouds. They drift down, a fog scented air, like copper coagulate. I’d rather they rain. It’s so much better to let blood pour, easier to clean. Foggy blood sticks around much longer, fills the air, and my air filter no longer works.
I grab the crimson mat and run to the kitchen sink dribbling blood along the way, slipping in it, catching my balance just in time.
Leave it. I’ll clean the spilt blood later.
The mists swirl as I poor the blood from the mat and down the kitchen drain. I run hot water, but it makes the swirling worse so I turn on the disposal.
The crimson mist rises, a whirring cyclone from the disposal’s black rubber flaps, and it tries to pull me into the metal teeth of the drain, catching my fingers in the swirl. I resist, gaining them back to me in small increments. The cyclone is too strong, so I drop to the wood plank floor like a soldier clawing at an arsenal and open the cabinet where the citrus Lysol sits, but I can’t get the cap off. My hands slip, misted with cyclone blood. What did I do with the towel? Wiping hands on wool tweed slacks, bought on sale at Macy’s, I try to dry them, but they won’t dry completely and instead turn sticky, grip the cap, and I yank it from its can. I spray Lysol with slashing strokes of citrus mist, and it cuts the crimson cyclone like ghost swords. Three, four, five strokes and the cyclone fades away, replaced with antiseptic gashes in air, wounds of long, lingering happy smells with a hint of antiseptic. A clean aphrodisiac, so I spray a little on my wrists and inside the crooks of my elbows.
Time for bed. I’ll clean the blood tomorrow morning.
Over the white porcelain sink, I remove my face. First the eyes, then mouth, nose, the rose of my cheeks. Finally, my hair, and I clean the blood from it with Suave apple-scented shampoo. I sit these all on tiny shelves behind the medicine chest mirror.
Hands out so not to trip, I make my way to the gilded ivory dresser by the hickory sleigh bed. It is pearlescent like oyster gems. I open the top drawer first where I rest my drained and faceless head. Down the row, a drawer for each part: one for breasts, one for waist, one for my hips and ribs and legs. My feet go in the last drawer. I have skipped the drawer for my womb, vagina and clitoris. They have had such a rough day, so I keep them with me, cradling them beside what is left of me, more mist than soul, singing a lullaby, then reciting by heart a story of wild things in wild places and wondering if such places might really exist outside a child’s head. I promise that we’ll visit the wild things next weekend when work isn’t so heavy. I promise, though we both know that we’ll not have time or energy. My womb smiles anyway. She needs to hear that we’ll try, and the mist soul smiles, too. We snuggle closer. I hold them lightly so not to add further to their bruises. Tonight is for cuddling, and I promise to be patient with them, to listen. We don’t speak of the day, the week, the clinic or the vet.
Loss in twos is really too much. Really, it is.
I wake each time they shudder or cry like lost doves in the spring, and I am patient still. I listen and wonder if there might be time to visit the wild things one day when all the pieces of me heal.
I’m lonely, my womb says between snuffles, and I say that I know. There, there sweet girl, I know. Will we ever be full again? she asks.
I feel my way through the dark and to the bathroom faucet where I fill the small glass with water then feel my way back to bed.
Drink, I say.
I don’t want it.
It will help you feel better. Please.
She opens her mouth and takes a small sip. Why did we do it?
He wouldn’t have stayed.
He might have.
He’s already gone.
You pushed him away from us.
I had no choice.
That’s what you always say.
Her name was Lily, I say. I buried a card with her name on it. I buried it with Princess to keep her company.
I like Lily. Maybe we could have another, and we could name her Lily, too.
No. One Lily is enough.
How about another Princess? And we both look at the end of the bed where Princess had lain the night before, the weight of her muzzle over my ankle.
I miss him.
Can we find another one of him?
One day. One day, we’ll look again.
Do you think we can find one who doesn’t snore?
Yes. I can’t help but giggle. Yes, I think we might be able to find one who doesn’t snore.
That would be good. And my womb turns over, inching the round of her curves into the round of mine, and there as sleeping forms drained of the day, we rest the way of tomorrow, when again, on the sky blue mat, our losses will lay.
Rae Bryant's fiction appears or is soon forthcoming in Blip Magazine (formerly Mississippi Review Online…), PANK, Gargoyle Magazine, Annalemma, Weave Magazine, and Kill Author, among other publications. Selected works have received Honors and Awards in the Lorian Hemingway, Whidbey Writers, and Bartleby Snopes Competitions, and most recently have been nominated for Dzanc's Best of the Web and Sundress’ Best of the Net. Her book of stories, The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals, will be released by Patasola Press (Caper Books) in June 2011. She is an M.A. writing candidate at Johns Hopkins University and the editor of Moon Milk Review. You can read more at www.raebryant.com.