Would you like a sample? asked a woman in a uniform just past the store’s threshold, gesturing out a sample in a small white cup, similarly to how pills were handed out in prisons on TV shows. The rows of food reached nearly to the ceiling of the store, so high they required a forklift to be lowered down to the patrons. A child begged her mother for a sample of an unfrozen fried Wonton appetizer, which her mother steadfastly denied. Sure, Stacey said, accepting the small cup, finding it pleasantly crunchy with afternotes of carrot.
We were born in darkness and hunger, and that was all we ever knew. My brother said we were like axes lodged in stone, impotent objects frozen in unknown space. Silence overwhelms us. Wind is a silent phantom, ice a silent beast. Sometimes it crackles with anxiety, sometimes it groans with hunger. Sometimes it terrifies me.
She believed in Sundays. Neither God nor churches nor frozen family dinners, watching a rerun of America’s Funniest Home Videos circled around the television like seagulls to a piece of bread. No, she savored Sundays like a talisman that protected her from the unknowns of the upcoming week.
Mrs. Rudikoff had an unsettled and frightened look on her face when she left our apartment in Spanish Harlem that evening. She also appeared to be full of judgment; mostly towards how my brothers laughed instead of how they should have taken pity on her when she said she felt attacked. Also, she probably was judgmental because she knew when she would tell her daughter that there were 40 tiny mice running on the floor in the Manhattan complex her daughter would scream.
Looking deep inside the mirror, he thinks: I am wholly contained inside my skin. His image coats the surface of his eye. He presses his elbow into his side. He squeezes his fist and wrings out his bicep. His body, steaming, stands before him in the grey, sending signals: his image back and forth between him, grey, satiated. He stretches his lips, presses his cheeks into his eyelids and sends up a special kind of prayer. You beast. He strains to call forth his deathless name: Monster. Monster.
As the years came for me I learned to cope with problems in the most artistic forms I could. I would swim to liberate myself from any burden or remorse. It didn’t matter what time of the year it was. I would throw myself in and give my all to the ocean, my hands continuously trying to unbind from where they belong. Nothing was rigid; there was a constant movement, an unbreakable peace.
I know we were married, but that day itself has gone from me, recently. I had it until yesterday, or the day before. It was not a space I immediately noticed. I ran through my life, wondering what was missing, and noted at length that that day was gone. Sometimes it seems there is order to the washing away of my mind, but in truth it is sporadic. I hear a baby cry. I remember the birth of my daughter, all at once, her red face.
She sat on the toilet seat to wait for the dye to set, and while she did she ran a bath to soak her feet in. She poured in mint bath salts. She thumbed through a magazine. There was a spread about women before and after plastic surgery. She no longer thought plastic surgery was vain; she thought it had to do with the autonomy of a woman’s body. She associated it vaguely with the word empowerment.