October 2015 ISSUE
Acts of Disappearance
By Tammy Delatorre
I emerge a sack of cells, a bloodied outer shell; handed to my mother with the umbilical cord still in place. Mother, sweaty and tired, asks the nurse for the surgical sheers. When I try to suckle at her breast, she severs the cord. That’s how she trained me: never express a need; always remain silent and docile.
A Luna moth ascends the night sky intent on the moon. Her ephemeral gown grows heavy. She tires and slowly descends until her white wings lie in the dirt. From her back, she sees a shadow fill the sky. She believes it’s the dark side of the moon about to lay its celestial body upon her own. Rather, it’s the heel of a shoe, the full weight of which comes to rest on her tender underbelly, a pressure so rapturous she feels triumphant in her passing, but the shoe lifts, and the moth has vanished.
In the pond, I brush the female guide’s hip, and its like washing calrose rice, the water turns silky and milk-like, and I yearn to drink it.
We make a fire together, laboring and sweating over twigs and logs and balled up newspaper. This is the way my father taught me, I say, as she steadies the match against the pulp of paper, and it ignites. I see beads of sweat upon her upper lip. Her hair is the color of Madeleines, and the soft insides of her arms, like cream.
In the morning, we explore sea caves on kayaks. The one she’s excited for me to see doesn’t look like much from the outside, just a black slit in the rock, but she shows me how to enter, letting go of effort, letting the current carry us into darkness.
My family believes in ghosts. I am haunted, too, because my mother ran off one night. While she was still around, she went blank behind the eyes like she was thinking of somewhere or someone else. She was cellophane gliding through our kitchen, setting a bowl of Fruit Loops in front me, the silly picture of Toucan Sam on the box, the cheerfully colored O’s floating in milk. The cereal turned to mush, the milk, syrupy sweet, and she was gone.
I imagine my mother, like the moth, carried away at the bottom of some man’s shoe. I stop searching for her in the bodies of other women. If it happens to you: Think of the monitors in hospitals that measure the beat of the heart, how they flat line when a person dies. Strive for that kind of non-arousal. Take a shower. Butter your bread. Get a haircut. Be sure it doesn’t grow too long like mine, the ends of which are burnt and damaged by my mother’s chemical sea. Disinterest is a disappearance all its own.
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Extract(s) features bite-sized literature in surprising forms.