I’m posting this baby five minutes before the beginning of when I should be posting ‘writings p. 5’– better late than…? That’s what happens when you don’t wake up at home I guess, incredibly hungover and hopping to your counselor’s meeting. All jokes aside, this one’s a darker piece for sure. Its initial moments were inspired by a ramsackle neighborhood bordering the downtown eastiside in Vancouver, though perhaps where I go with it comes closer to something you mihgt see in Winnipeg. Each of these stories experiments with a different style of writing. Against the heavily colloquial and clunky narrative yesterday, this one is a lot more distanced– refusing the character’s names– and a lot more poetic. Anyways, enjoy, see y’all tomorrow!
In and among the discarded reeds and dead leaves, the Mother finds two stalks of roses. Their edges are crinkled and the pink’s less like the pink of love and more the pink of a girl catching breath, but they’re roses, roses she twists in the light. The Daughter reaches for their edges but Mother slaps her hand away.
“Don’t wreck it!”
“We’ll find a glass for them at home, everyone can see them there.”
Long wispy sleeves can’t hide the bones in Mother’s arms, and Daughter’s blue eyes can’t conceal the stretching of the skin near the eyes. But then: the open seams of the daughter’s dress take nothing from her golden curls, carefully combed by Mother that morning. No amount of scolding totally hides the love behind every command.
They hold the two rosestalks between them as they wander down the road. Old narrow houses hidden by the attack of the vines; shingles hang loose or fall onto the open-broken steps– the house wood’s fine but the paint’s rubbing off. Late day, the heat comes in sweltering waves, like being caught gasping in an invisible Ocean. Wave after wave, it crashes against the leaning doors and windows held together by tape. Inside nothing stirs, and both Mother and Daughter know not to peer in or wonder what sleeps (and eats and uses) inside. A park in the middle anchoring them, pooling all the garbage bags and tipped shopping carts. In its center loud men speak in riddles, say just about nothing at all. Daughter likes to believe they speak in her nursery rhymes, that they reveal themselves to be jesters and mad hatters in the moonlight. (Jokes and jeers, horrors that go away when you wake up…) But she’d never think about going that far into the center. Mother told her not to.
Tiny steps, Daughter makes her way past the chain-linked fence. (Chains, but also climbing walls and places to tie pink ribbons…)
It’s a park, and parks do invite silence, but just two blocks east and three blocks west the sirens and the screech (the roar and the rip) never end. Near as a breathing giant (the glass peeps above the homes), it’s always there.
But today, the sound pierces in. “Santeria”: California steel guitars on a sweltering July day. Usually, it’s a song to pretend you have access to a beach, to close your eyes and lie on your sand. But today Mother– in the stillness that forms around the tune– focuses on every red-eyed word. “And I’ll try to stick this cap straight down Shancho’s throat, Daddy’s got a new 45!”
Across the park the car carrying the tune rolls by. Open-topped Mercedes, beige but for a blue stripe running along its middle. Three in the car: two bald and one with bandana, two sunglassed and one with eyes so green they cut across the park. Their words are lost by the song, but their tone manages to reach her.
The time it takes for the man in the middle to stand up is the time it takes for Mother to stand down– grab Daughter’s hair and force her against the pavement. By then Mr Bandana is already unveiling his revolver; the men of the park halt their riddles, and Daughter notices this before she realizes her eyelashes are brushing the dust of the road. It’s the reek of the asphalt and the furious thrashing of her chest (all the dirt of the days bad men are coming–). The six bang-bang-bang-bang-bang-bang‘s that slice across the park are so methodical they almost sync to the song’s beat. But then, the wails of the six men draw wildly away from the song, take away that beat and that gorgeous beach breeze. The roll of the car– away– takes the song. Now the cries rip up the air– gasping for breath at the bottom of the ocean, they sound like fish dragged out. Flopping against the metal hull.
Trembling, Mother manages to grab Daughter’s hand. It falls limp into hers. These golden curls make a mound as they bury into the curb. Dust settles on her dress.
“Baby, hey Baby. Baby… please look at me.”
Tiny eyes peer between the strands of the locks.
“Baby. Baby. It’s going to be okay.”
The eyes continue to stare, the grip grows stronger.
“I’m here Baby. Mommy’s here.”
The eyes dart nervously towards something lying beyond the edge of the curb, up on the sidewalk. Three more leaves have fallen off, but in the golden edge of the afternoon the flower takes on something new.
“The rose, you want the rose?”
Daughter finds the strength to lift her head, to let it fall. A nod.
“Okay. Okay. I’ll get you the rose.”
But when she lifts her arm, the weight of the sun the houses and the terrible air make it almost impossible for her arm to reach the curb. Down among the drift, her body practically molds itself to the road. She pushes again: arm flops up, fingers crawl across the pavement, find the thorns. She squeezes it– squeezes both hands– and lets the thorns pierce her palm as it’s dragged back to them. Daughter watches it intently as the petals move towards her.
And, just like she remembered the riddles and not the deals, when she thought of that day she’d think of the rose and not the red.