Frost

by | Jun 11, 2024 | CNF, Issue Thirty-Nine

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Honey, baby, winter break and Massachusetts, filled with snow again and again, house golden and lit from within, what does everyone look like, you’re hunched in the chair, your sister has too much punch, drunk, six champagne bottles and you got lost in a house for ivy and wisteria, baby roses, this green is getting meaner, doesn’t matter because there’s hatred and breakfast, your mother sleeps in her bra and makeup, you try to join the others but find yourself walking through the snow, on the phone asking for the millionth time, why does this always happen to me?

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Dinner at his parent’s house, pretending to be normal. Marble countertops, overstocked fridge, your nail catches in your phone case and everything is blood. You hear overreacting and the word is like a marble on the tongue. Anyways, you know what they say. But it’s been hours since you’ve heard from the others and he turns to you, face solemn and not yet swollen from addiction, and says, Something’s up. Excuse yourselves from the warmth of the dining room, borrow his mother’s car, avoid the ice patches. Faster, you think to yourself as he winds down pine-tree lined streets. The houses are amber as scallops, buttery circles of holiday lights and crisp blue icicles. You think, again, of money. Faster, your mind screams, but when you arrive it’s already too late.

She is in the snow, wailing. You are not too young to know better but you don’t have access to language, and in that moment, you have no idea what’s going on. Years later, you’ll look back, remember her howl, think to yourself, I know this pain. She wore someone’s boxer shorts. She said it hurts, over and over and over again. Her partner is gone. Your second friend tells you: dare, switch, stranger, car window, shattering, broken nose, elbow, blue lights, red lights, darkness. There is blood in the snow. The rest of the night is an empty sack. You never could outrun these things.

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People in your family decide they can’t stand you. What does it matter, couldn’t stand yourself in the first place. Irresponsible and bent over in the tub, your mind flits between scenes: forests, bike paths, sand pits, the back of a Cadillac, the back of a red truck, a lake, a gazebo covered in a gauzy mosquito net, you reread your journals from that time and all of them repeat the same line about balconies: rips, snaps, tugging, running, hiding, lunging.

In the past, your body was twisted, contorted. Don’t learn these shapes. Field of wheat. Mint-green school. Back of work. Pinstriped aprons and black button-up shirts. Waist grabs and scolds. You grow tired of people asking what happened. Don’t you know? You want to scream. You don’t know how to be a human girl. You write stories substituting words and still, people ask why.

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But if you must know:

Garnet / ruby / rubellite / cinnabar / agate / beryl / tomato / spinel / celebrity / early girl / Brandywine / tigerella / beef / big rainbow / Santorini / cherry / apple / strawberry / blood orange / mango / prickly / sauce / spice / gala / York / Cortland / honeycrisp / this isn’t right / what’s real was rabbit, rice, ricotta cheese, risotto, Riesling, rigatoni, raccoon, ribeye, rainbow, roast, rye, roast, rockfish, rum, relish, ravioli, radish, radicchio / ridiculous / leading to: basil – banana – blackberry – butter – bay leaf – beetroot – barley – bell pepper – baklava – bagel – bacon – barbecue – beef – but why is it so hard to say rape – beetroot – bitter – back to cranberries / raspberries / red potatoes / snap.

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Wintertime, waitressing, frost-lined streets and red solo cups. You bury yourself within a memory in a memory in a memory. You must reach back through houses and hallways to find anything concrete. But you’re at another party again and your friends are asking you to smoke on the porch. You apply lip-gloss in the smudged mirror, allow your legs to dangle between wooden slats. Who would dare call the fire department, who will ask the host to fetch his father’s stew, who will yank your ragdoll body until it snaps in half?

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New Year’s Eve. Yes, snow, yes, rain, yes, hatred. Someone plays jazz and your stepsiblings are in the living room. Everything bagels, pancakes, cream cheese, butter, bacon, Danish, apple pie, milk, coffee, cream, and nothing more.

Here’s a line to rest on: you’ve just been diagnosed with an eating disorder and you’re trying to survive Massachusetts.

But in the meantime, your past. Everyone jokes about your trouble, you’re a frustration, you were terrible in school. No one asks about body damage, chronic illness, abuse / what does it matter / would anyone believe you if you told them / why does it continue to matter, now? The times you went missing. Problem child. Your mother called her in the night, furious. No one asked, no one cared. Safety unraveled. Your stories fill with oysters and mollusks, difficult-to-eat sea creatures, don’t even try to consume me, I make jewels from pressure. Physical / emotional / social / your body crouches when voices are raised, you don’t believe anyone who says they love you, your life begins to feel like a type of fungus, and speaking of which, did you know basket stinkhorn is red and full of holes? The house feels threatening so you exit to the porch, watching snowflakes gather atop recently purchased frog statues. Your mother wants her life to have some semblance of normalcy. Fails.

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Healing is like: no I’m not, yes I am, I will cry in this taxi and screw you for judging, taking pictures of life-size holiday ornaments, getting lost in the horticulture section of the store and wondering what you could do with all those shovels, you toss your money at every therapist and nothing helps you, you’re having a 4am-panic-attack month but tell no one, people get sick of how heavy everything is so you make it light, I’m-so-hilariously-damaged but I’ll heal / but I’ll fix this / but don’t worry about me / so they don’t. You apologize, apologize for apologizing, get so sick from the sound of your own voice you throw up in the bathroom at school. [When you were being abused and your partner found out, he called it cheating. He said in order to forgive you, he would need to start abusing you as well. No one used the A-word. Should your apologies start coming with content warnings or is this, too, a waste of time.]

Healing is questionable. You reread journals from when you were younger and notice splotches of dried blood on the pages. Why was no one helping? You want to scream, then don’t. You are Velcro and bandages and long sleeves and exhausted to your bones. Your therapist says talking to you is like playing whack-a-mole because you have so many issues that come up. Does that mean I’m really good at therapy? you joke and he doesn’t laugh so you abandon him, too.

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You move to the South and promise yourself no more bleeding. Four months later and you’ve broken your own rules twice. For weeks, everyone jokes about your bandages.

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The doctor seems trustworthy. Smooth voice like river stones or caramel, she runs her fingers over your arm, comments about the smoothness of your flesh. Sorry about my self-tanner, I must look ridiculous, she says. Can I see your other arm? She doesn’t repeat herself when you ignore her question.

Late in December, does your sister remember? Hospital fight, mother sobbing, routine blood test, there was nowhere to heal or hide. You’re surprised no one took the door from your room. You remember screaming, her words cooling in your mind, a plasma, everything back then was venom, you ruined your body and it didn’t matter, she thrust vitamin E cream at you, said here / fix yourself.

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Vending machine cinnamon buns, shattered motel painting, your father remarried twice and never invited you, your sister was hiding, your mother screamed on the phone, the sea licked at the shore. Beyond the horizon, bright red-purple-blue-yellow lights on the Ferris wheel, slick boardwalk whose underside is coated in barnacles, you had no money, your boyfriend broke up with you while on vacation. Late April and the snow finally ended. Large lilac jellyfish beached themselves on the shore, unclear if on purpose or by the whip of tide. You pocket jagged seashells, eat only spicy chips, block out the rest of the trip in your mind but later you’ll locate your journal and the entry will read: my father yelled at me, my mother, the waitress, my sister, the hotel attendant, a stranger. He doesn’t love you but once in a while he’ll send you money.

Sometimes you daydream about finding the rest of his family and asking them if they remember you.

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