Four Generations

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December 22, 2016 by The Citron Review

by R.


I infuse disappointment in my sighs, think about getting a job and maybe buying a corset to thin out my body. I spread glitter on my lips, and mother tells me I look like a star. The words dangle off her tongue, and I’m not sure if it’s a compliment. My mother takes care of my kid, but is more keen on keeping the blades away from me. I don a periwinkle dress and pray that the fashion magazine has an opening. I don’t give a damn about working, but my grandmother does. She addresses my mother: where did you go wrong? The words are honey mingled with vinegar, whispered yet maneuvered to reach my ears. Her eyes are swords, slicing and tearing apart the rouge on my cheeks and the tattoo on my collarbone.

My mother wants me to be happy, exactly what she is not. She takes me out to R-rated movies when my grandmother is asleep, trying to escape the fact that all three of our men left us. One in a coffin, one in bed with a model, one nowhere to be found; but not in the order people would anticipate. She buys me scented candles speckled with violet gems, takes me to bakeries next to fashion magazine offices where we smear our faces with third-rate blueberry pudding. My daughter will be beautiful; she has her father’s genes. Her skin is too smooth for a newborn, her eyes too bright, her hair too satiny. When my grandmother rocks her to sleep because my lungs are populated with smoke, I hear her hum. Don’t take after your mother, take after me. And I bite my lips until blood becomes my dinner.

But my grandmother is right, even though I’ll never surrender. I screwed up my mother, and now her job is making sure I don’t overdose on pills, or worse yet, get pregnant again. My grandmother talks about how her mother caned her when she did wrong, how she did the housework every hour of the day, how she bled sweat and exhaustion, how she married a man she despised just to please her parents. She then tells me how my mother had a pristine life as an accountant, how she gave that up a few years ago when my life started spiraling out of control. She tells me something snapped in my mother the night she found me unconscious, blood running down my thighs, turning my honey kilt crimson. My grandmother talks like a ghost, like the fog of life wafted away years ago. Her skin is a papier mâché of hurt and goodness that decayed over time.

She doesn’t need to remind me of how I stomach bottles of guilt and wasted the life I was given. One night, my mother lets me cradle my baby to sleep. She arms tremble when she hands her to me, and her face is bloated with apprehension. I see myself in a wine glass and wonder what I have become. I look at my daughter’s puckered lips and the waves of brown embracing her head, a halo that came down to earth. I hold her against my chest and promise her I’ll give her the life my mother wanted to give me but didn’t get the chance to. Tears roll down my cheeks and land on her nose, a sparkling sign of rebirth.


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