one day, my mother stops coming down for dinner. she goes to a place not even my father can drag her back from, sleeping day after day in my brother’s vacant bed, crumpled, tear-stained tissues left in her wake. night after night, I lie outside the bedroom door, keeping watch. somewhere inside me there is a sanctuary city. there is a house with sky-stained hydrangeas exploding out of its sides like extra limbs, where the walls are soft as sea sponges and the air is breathable. somewhere inside me, I’m making a safe place for her to live, but she doesn’t know how to look for it. my mother is standing out in the yard for hours. years ago, she’d never let me out without smoothing sunscreen on my cheeks and shoulders, but now she’s looking directly into the sun. it’s growing, she says to no one. the sun is swelling. to me, it shakes its head. I touch her arm and she stirs from a dream, jerking her whole body from my hand, some animalistic fear stretching her eyes wide. and in my face she sees my father, his frigid sins, his curled fists. she sees nothing redeemable or loveable. somewhere inside me, there is a city drowning, a house demolished to rubble. she turns back to the sun, eyes closed. she waits for it to open its mouth and swallow.
by Wanda Deglane