My mother sleeps in my bedside mirror, primping and shuffling missives from my prince who writes to me only in spy green ink. There is never good sleep there because of my pea-filled mattress she fills from the freezer every weekend to help with the pain she says. For breakfast, she feeds me whole cold apples that swell my throat until I can’t catch my breath o o o o o o down my neck.
I awake one Tuesday with a chilled head and reach to feel black scruff instead of curls, military-made hair by her hand and my father’s straight razor, straight scalped to the scalp. The remaining bits of hair hide under a verdant ribbon she’s swirled around my head like I’m a newborn. She takes me to an abandoned mall Sears photography studio and snaps images of me posed against bear rugs appropriated from Home Goods, second floor.
One day, I catch her steaming the notes and cards open under hot water, shocking them back closed in cold water so I won’t know she tried to read them first. My princely lovely prince has gifted me the secret signet decoder ring, I wear it around my neck around the apple o’s where she doesn’t look. When she can’t decipher the invisible ink, she tosses them into our backyard pond moat. In morning fog, each word each I love you lily floats glowing in dirty water bright green broccoli or asparagus or snow peas or the peas she lines up under my mattress to guard my sleep. The colorful words, kisses become hers, not mine as they disappear instead of reappear.
I send him sighs and kisses and skating rink ghost images of us at different high schools, skating backwards in other couples just a hand’s breadth breath away. We’re caught by an apocalyptic photo booth with real film next to a celluloid cigarette vending machine that gives us cover to kiss or smoke or exchange smoking kisses for a rumpled dollar bill and knob pull. By the time I find the envelopes and blue note lined paper, I can’t smell him anymore and the money he sends for the gas bill or to buy something pretty is missing, in mama’s pockets because she thinks she needs pretty things too.
I write his name and address on my arm like I’m six and afraid of getting lost or forgetting my own address, tattooing myself first with black marker and then ink inked permanently-pixelated into my arm.
I find my way to him, to the pond where letters float, flop hop like delicate flowers, sending his algae fingers out to reach me. I jump in the water. The letters and numbers in his name fade away as I see him across the water’s edge wearing a newspaper origami word hat bleeding crying letters down his face.
He pulls the crown ribbon from my head and wraps it around a stack of lily-scented papers, floating love letters. His first finger pen drags across my arm mascara blacked with forgotten details and directions his name the place where our love lives.
Words appear in my skin.
Farest of them awl
Numbers line up next 6 13 3.1415926535 to remind me of where he lives, where the letter love grows. I climb out of the water, mossy dress clinging to my ankles, legs, stomach, shoulders, face. I turn to grab his hand and he’s gone, steamed away from me, his initials left scratched into my arms like tree trunk double heart initials in a forgotten forest.
AMY BARNES — Amy has words at a variety of sites including: FlashBack Fiction, Popshot Quarterly, Flash Fiction Magazine, X-Ray Lit, Stymie Lit, No Contact Mag, JMMW, Nurture Literary, Tuna Fish Journal, Janus Literary, Leon Literary Review, Reckon Review, The Molotov Cocktail, Lucent Dreaming, Lunate Fiction, Rejection Lit, Perhappened, Cabinet of Heed, Spartan Lit, and others. She is an Associate Editor at Fractured Lit and reads for CRAFT, Taco Bell Quarterly, Retreat West, NFFD, The MacGuffin, and Narratively. Her flash collection, Mother Figures is forthcoming in 2021 from ELJ Editions, Ltd.
Art by TCLARE — TClare is a greater New York area artist who currently is creating works that express and celebrate the healing energy of the natural world around us. Tee grew up in New York and spent half his life in the San Francisco Bay Area where he taught “Expressing Grief through Art and Music” workshops. When he isn’t creating art or listening to music, he can be found wandering the deserted marshes and bogs of the Northfork, East End of Long Island, along with his faithful black lab, Karma. More of his work can be found at www.tclare.com.