Clarice | a short story

=>for a totally immersive reading experience please listen to this<=

She’d only eat the cherries to spit out their kernels. She’d always leave a bowl full of kernels that looked like she’d bled on them all. She was his mother and she didn’t seem to exist anymore.

He cut a chicken breast into pieces as if her hand had done it. Cut through the flesh. He couldn’t hear the sound anymore. He thought about her, the way her mouth quivered when she stopped screaming and the way she pressed her lips together when she had to compose herself. She’d hold his hand in public and everybody would think, mother and son, but he felt how hard she actually squeezed.

His hands accelerated the motions of the knife. He was back in his mother’s kitchen. He could smell her sweat when she was cooking and hear her exhale her depression. It had blackened her insides, it just never left her body. Her breath contained the destruction within her. Her face would linger above the boiling water in the pot and she’d just let her face drip into the soup.

He chewed the meat and remembered the chunks of hair she left behind in the shower. How she distributed herself everywhere, because she couldn’t hold on to herself anymore. She stopped trying to be who she was and let others find pieces of her. She’d let the water run, but the hair would not disappear. The tips were just pulled into the abyss, but the intertwined body of hair was held by the metal.

It was him who turned the light on in the room she was in. She looked like herself in the worst ways. What was inside of her made her memorable. It always reached out to him, made contact, crawled up his feet. She’d sit in front of the television that was off and existed only in the dark reflection world, a silhouette, a piece of furniture that was told to move, to get up, to speak at least.

She’d mumble that it had a name and it was hers, it had her name and that it wasn’t hers to keep. He cleaned the dishes of everything untouched and heard her repeat that she didn’t want to grow old like this. He closed his eyes with the sponge in his hand and imagined her again and how he always tried to find something light in her appearance, something that he could hold on to when she’d plan her funeral again at the breakfast table.

The first time he went to a playground and immediately played with other children, he looked over to her after a few moments to feel safe, and caught his mother fully present behind her eyes in a bright smile that relaxed her entire face. She knew that he’d be all right. He didn’t.

He was supposed to go to work again tomorrow. Back to everybody who expressed their condolences without knowing his mother’s name, but its name. Back to everybody who just kept going, just kept drinking coffee, just went to bed and just got up. Tomorrow he had to be of service again. Tomorrow he’d have to put his mother away again, somewhere where she couldn’t be seen or heard, somewhere where she couldn’t affect anyone. She needed to be without air for a long time. He wasn’t her son when he was working and she could not be his mother because he had to be of service.

He drank his black coffee and thought of his mother’s dead pupils, her eyes were wide open when she left her body. As if she had left through her eyes. On the bus, he looked at a braid on a woman’s head in front of him that reminded him of his mother’s hair that was braided by the mortician, braided so that her hair wouldn’t end up in the bin anymore.

My own drawing © Laura Gentile 2022 | Instagram: croque_melpomene

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