By Lua Valino de Jong
Although this short story is of my own creation, it is inspired by the book Lanny (2019) written by Max Porter, which I would recommend checking out.
Do you remember the day we met? It was summer before I even knew what summer meant. I’d sleep and weep and dream dreams in green and take my baby steps through my homestead. I’d drive my mother crazy as I crawled down and up our stone cold hallways, whilst she followed me around, tethered by her barren dreads. Anyways, on that day, the day we met, dear mom traded her maternal fears for some pills and a bed, and I dropped my pacifier and walked free from her unblinking stare. Unaware, I trespassed beyond the borders of that man-made land, unto your space. I saw you in our back garden, with walls of greens in between my life and your death, and clematis flourishing over them.
You were dancing then. To the sound of birds, along with your daffodils and maple trees. You were dancing with one arm in the air, the other caressing the earth. You cheered for the bees and the dirt in your nails, hair, brain, and the cabbage leaves that covered your breasts. You embraced me, passed your mossy lips over my eyelids in a sign of greeting and goodbye. I wondered if you would, right then and there, grow lofty antlers and trot over our stone fence – if you could, which you could.
When I told my mother about your damp kisses, she dialed 911, in her fever of TVs and nefarious news, of kidnap, murder, rape… I saw them arrive with their screeching blue and red lights. They listened to me in disbelief, ‘This story is nonsense and you, you are just a toddler – no such beast could live in this backyard, child.’ I was dismissed and I wondered why. Why we grow up into grown-ups who outgrow you and the life you have given us.
˙ʇɟǝl ǝʌɐɥ noʎ qɯoʍ ǝɥʇ ʇɔǝlƃǝu ʇ,uoᗡ
I recall that autumn at the age of twelve. My classmates, with venom on their tongues, conjuring up what I had buried within me time and time again. ‘Monster, dyke, gay.’ I walked out on them, through the school’s hallways, out of that village of shame, towards your grave of fireflies. You were sitting atop that hill you so liked and, upon having recognized the blood-stricken marks on my cheeks, you made them glisten – ten million atoms shining stark in that tomb of brass. You then took my hand and walked me across your tapestry of small abuses.
‘Those,’ you pointed at a pile of trash, ‘are the lake-loads of chemicals piped daily down my throat.’ You shed a tear of dimming lights, as they flew erratically – down, drop, dead. ‘And that,’ I pointed at, ‘is the greed and decay, the needing and the working and the release of methane; the slaughtering of animals, the selling of our souls to corporates, the last straw in a sea of synthetic substances.’ And out of my lips came a laugh, as I laughed at me and laughed at them, ‘Us, little busy ants, ravaging the earth, endlessly rebuilding and replacing things, all we are is bags for shopping and bags of waste.’ You joined my laugh, my laugh of contempt, and I spread my arms, ‘At least, if the sun burns out, we have enough brass to build another one.’
˙ɥʇɹɐǝ ɹǝɥʇouɐ plınq oʇ ʇɟǝl ʇǝuɐld ɥƃnouǝ ǝʌɐɥ ʇ,uoʍ noʎ sɹɐǝʎ ʎʇɹıɥʇ uı ʇnꓭ
I was twenty years old and I hadn’t seen you for too long. One year. One year of sipping through cups of stress and tea – snowflakes down the windowpane – blinking at the deafening screens. Seasons rolled out of bed, as I dug my own grave with a slab that read, ‘Forsaken.’ I would stare out the windows of my little dorm and pretend that you were there, somewhere over those metal buildings. Other times I would stand at my doorstep, unable to leave, stretching my arms out far. To press my hands on the tree across the street and feel – feel your presence. But as much as I tried, I could not reach it.
˙ǝslǝ ǝɹǝɥʍǝɯos sʇooɹ ʍǝɹƃ noʎ ʇnq ʻnoʎ ɹoɟ ƃuıʇooɹ sɐʍ ı
On those long winter nights, I used to dream of the Virgin Mary, her babysitting on her lap, and the people of our village in the back, reaping the hay. That baby, he grew and swelled and stretched, released from whatever canvas he had been imprisoned in, draped across my lap, ‘still feeding, fast asleep but thirsty,’ and the people in the back, ‘tiny, desperately harvesting, kneeling down pulling at the hopeless straws,’ and in the mirror, half-obscured were you, painting us.
And I understood – I understand now – why you have not yet abandoned us. Because you are in us like water, older than time. You are animal, vegetable, mineral. And, since once we were in your womb, once again we shall. Sometime when we are dead-ends no more when the wet leaves drench us into the damp mud floor, and we breathe out more affection than junk. So I still have hope, hope to have my baby grow up in a world where we are more obviously made of the same atoms you are. Maybe we will change our ways. For now, I will just shift my outburining stare into your unblinking sun – and hope I can meet you there.
Image source: https://unsplash.com/photos/c0rIh0nFTFU