Opening Scene: Mother had a Dress Made of Sunshine

5:57 PM
Mother had a dress made of sunshine, legs and arms shooting out from it like pale rays, her smile as bright and pretty as any of the girls I’ve seen on the cover of those magazines they sell down at the drugstore. The picture is faded now, one big crease erasing the colour down the centre like the big bad world couldn’t handle a thing so pure. I knew it was my own fault it looked so worn and that she was now barely a shadow of the girl once captured there; as if my fingers couldn’t help but predict her future upon her image. Mother stopped being young the moment I started breathing.

I can’t stop touching it. The picture whispers to me of gentler times. The edges are soft, pulling apart, revealing the secret that one thing isn’t one thing, it is layers and layers of many things. They are soft like a gum wrapper I’ve worried with my fingers for long lonely hours. Things like that, they turn to cotton if you touch them enough. I hang onto gum and all its trappings as long as I can because it’s so rare I ever get such a treat. Sometimes I work a wrapper so long it fades to nothing between my fingers, disappearing into my skin. Perhaps one day I’ll turn into the very paper I’m absorbing. Maybe someone will write a story on my skin to erase the one I wear already.

Does touch make a person weak? That’s something people say, isn’t it? I lost myself in their arms. That makes sense to me because I see it happening with Mother’s photograph. The more of her image that fades into my skin, the more her living self turns to grey.

Still I don’t stop.

So what does that make me?

I want to be a goldfinch, clad in sunny decadence with a little shadow along my wingtips to keep me honest. I want my call to be a song that reaches into the places where winter ends, swooping hope along my tail feathers as I tempt heaven with my freedom.

“Stop your cawing,” Mother would say. “You’re no goldfinch. You’ve got a bit of crow in you though.”

I’ve seen crows. I know what they do. I see they way they hop to dead things on the road and pick at the flesh. Mother doesn’t realize what she’s saying, but I know. I know she’s the dead thing and I’m the black thing at her side. I long to be in the trees with a song in my breast, but she has written my story and I stay where she puts me.

I’m desperate for her love, but I’m sure she’s forgotten how. It’s packed up in a box of her childhood things, there with the yellow dress and the arms without their bruises. She has some motions her body takes her through that could be mistaken for kindness, but I know better because she’s always nicest after she’s taken her medicine. As the plunger sinks her eyes soften and she nearly loves me for a moment, brushing my hair idly, her broken fingernails catching in its gold, whispering beneath her breath about how Joni Mitchell is the only person who will ever truly understand her.

It bruises her arm—there where she sticks herself with happily-ever-after; there where a silver line pushes into the midnight blue beneath skin so white and pale it seemed to glow like a ghost with its own preternatural light.

I know the truth of it. I know her lies. I know her brokenness. I know she’s like a mirror smashed by an angry fist and no matter how long I try and how careful I am and how perfectly I fit those pieces back together, the reflection will always be distorted and cracked—a weak remembrance of the beauty she was, walking through the park in a dress made of sunshine.

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