My Breath Catches in My Skull1
April 4, 2016 by The Citron Review
by Ariel Gore
D stands at the edge of her bed and lets me suck her cock. I like the way the
silicone tip of it presses against the back of my throat.
“God,” she says, “may I fuck you?”
Like she wants to fuck God.
My mother is dying and all I want is for D to fuck me.
After late home hospice shifts I drive tired, careen into D’s gravel
driveway, push my way through her kitchen door.
She wraps her arms around me. “Baby, do you want some tea?”
“No, I want you to take me to your bed and fuck me.”
She leads me through her dining room.
Her bedroom is cold.
I keep my eyes open.
When I was a kid, I stood against the stucco wall of our dining room, silent
and waiting, not answering my mother’s shrieked question: “Do you want me
to bash your head into the wall?”
From where I stood, I could see the front door. Arched and wooden,
with a little speakeasy grill. I fantasized that someday the door might open
before my head smashed into the stucco wall cr-ack.
“Answer me!” my mother screamed.
A stone caught in my throat. I could not answer.
Her face too close to mine now, her voice shrill, “Answer me!”
Fingernails rake across my scalp. Her fist grips my hair like it’s a handle.
She thinks no answer means yes.
Why do they always think no answer means yes?
My skull is softer than stucco. Cr-ack.
D always asks permission. She knows that no answer means not yet. She
knows that if there’s a stone caught in my throat and I want to say yes,
I’ll find a way to nod.
She says, “will you fuck yourself for me?”
Outside, the snow comes down fast.
“Where have you been, Tiniest?” my mother cries from her hospice bed. She’s
always crying from her hospice bed. I want to love my mother with a
snow-like purity. I want her frailty to evoke in me only tenderness. My breath
catches in my skull, this terror that wishing her dead will make her dead even
though I know she’s already dying. I’ll be a good girl. I won’t smash your
head into the wall, Mom.
Her friends call me to tell me I’m a saint, but in Catholicism, even
thoughts can be sins.
“I told you I can’t be here all the time, Mom, but Octavio stayed here with you all
night, didn’t he? Margarita comes this afternoon.”
“Why can’t you be here, Tiniest?” My mother’s hands shake. She cannot even
grip the edge of the sheet that she wants to pull up over her exposed belly.
I’ll be a good girl and not grip your hair like it’s a handle. I won’t scream in your
face, “Do you want to die?” I won’t shriek, “Answer me!”
My mother asks if she will die today.
I don’t know what to say. It’s up to God.
“Answer me,” she hisses.
She’s so thin now, it occurs to me that I could wring her neck with just one hand.
“Do you want some tea, Mom?”
The new owners of the stucco house I grew up in are bulldozing the place. I
call the guy who used to sing in that Van Halen cover band when we were in
high school and I tell him I’ll pay him $100 to take his truck over there
and steal my front door, arched and wooden, with that little speakeasy grill.
“What do you want me to do with it?” he asks. He’s up for the theft, of course, but what then?
And I don’t know. I don’t have any place to put my front door.
I’m not even sure what I want with it.
Maybe I still think it’s my way out.
“Hold me down,” I tell D.
And she holds me down.
“Take off your shirt,” I tell D.
Her breasts are moonlight.
The harder I come the better D likes it.
“God, may I come?”
She doesn’t answer me.
And I know that means not yet.
Ariel Gore is a LAMBDA award-winning editor and author of eight books including Atlas of the Human Heart and The End of Eve. She teaches creative writing online at literarykitchen.com
Gripping. Haunting. I like