Open Me

Open Me by SUNSHINE O'DONNELL Read Free Book Online

Book: Open Me by SUNSHINE O'DONNELL Read Free Book Online
Authors: SUNSHINE O'DONNELL
MasterWailer—Aquarius—a water bearer with small feet. Alchemical symbol for multiplication and salt niter. With a 3-line trigram drawn by Aunt Ayin on the day of Mem’s birth and taped to the pink hearts and daisies of the newly wallpapered wall:
    ___ ___
    ___________
    _______________
    Meaning:
Sorceress, Joy, Reflections, Salt
.
    As they pull from the driveway, Mem pokes at the flaked-off vinyl and hard piping ruptured like a half-done operation. Under her feet, one of the bald tires thumps a steady rhythm in its well.
    No Wonder
    No Wonder
    No Wonder Your Father Left
    Mem’s mother’s anger is there in the car with them, damp, with coarse edges and pith, like drying cement. To distract herself from it, Mem twists around to watch the development shrink past. From the back window Mem’s neighborhood is a chain of paper dolls shaped like houses. The top halves of the houses are covered with siding in
Robin’s Egg, Summer Sand
, or
Lemon Mist
, and the bottom halves are made of dark maroon bricks, marrow-colored, the same shade women were wearing on their lips and nails when the houses were built. Mem’s mother’s house is yellow. When the wind blows against the siding at night, the metal strips vibrate, groaning like an old ship at sea.
    Mem’s mother was able to buy the house in cash, just before Mem was born, using a lifetime of Master-level fees. When she first moved in, the dead-end court was buffeted at both ends by wraparound woods with a gurgling creek threaded through it. Daisies and Queen Anne’s lace and tall, languorous grasses grew at each mouth of the woods. Acres of corn fields surrounded the woods that surrounded the development. At night you could hear anxious courting grasshoppers, the flurry of birds, small four-legged things rustling the grass as they stalked.
    That first year, as the months passed, the sounds around the house changed. The woods began to steadily disappear, as if a virus had blighted them out. Bulldozers ground their gears during the day and sat smug in their mounds of earth by night, slaughtered daisies and Queen Anne’s lace and tall onion grasses strewn across their fronts like exhausted protesters. New hand-in-hand houses went up, just as quickly as the woods had come down. Now at night Mem’s mother hears neighbors’ dishes clinking as they are washed, children hollering as they play, people arguing. Cars starting. Cars pulling up. Car doors opening and closing. And the vacant, half-expectant suburban sound of nothing at all.
    They pull out of the development and drive down Mem’s favorite street, a single-lane road snake-shaped with rollercoaster humps. As the car drives up and then down the humps, Mem’s belly thrills with an electric caved-in feeling and the coils of her mother’s long hair bounce like springs. Mem taps her fingernails against the pistachio shells stuffed in the little backseat ashtrays from the previous owners. Once on the highway the car passes a cloud factory lit up with a thousand white lights, curds of noxious steam billowing from several stacks. “P.U.!” cries Mem’s mother, rolling up her window as fast as she can, but it is too late, the smell is already inside the car. “P.U.!” says Mem. They both laugh.
    Then Mem’s mother stops laughing. Her voice gets hard.
    “That’s the reason so many women here have breast cancer,” she says.
    The sweaty backs of Mem’s knees mix with the plastic and turn gluey, making sucking noises when she moves. The hard cracks in the plastic pinch her skin. She sits up straight once they start down the Roosevelt Boulevard so she can watch all of the sad, static people waiting for buses, the skinny boys on the medians in between the lanes hawking newspapers, roses, stuffed animals, soft pretzels covered in small pellets of bright white salt. The boys are all tan and tired. The soft pretzels look wilted, but good, and Mem can almost taste their chewy saltiness, the tang of grainy brown mustard on

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