COME ON, NOW – Katie Nickas

study-for-st-john-in-the-wilderness

I do not balk at the potted plants you place on my doorstep—succulents with fat whorls of leaves—and the bittersweet you hang on the hook left over from the last tenant.
Or the cherub you stick in the gravel bed, wings opened like an umbrella, as if frozen in the seconds before flight.
When you complain my apartment has a dank smell, sneering at the moldering floorboards and crumbled plaster that you somehow attribute to my “melancholia.”The moss and lichen you try to scrape off the railroad ties—creosote jungle that ferments whenever it rains.
How you gaze with renewed interest at the entrance to the hookah bar when I tell you what a shithole it is, your eyes shrinking to stars at all the neon lights weaving like red licorice through the electric black, the hot-blooded denizens sloughing off their scales in the parking lot, drowning in puddles of grease, and robbing the night blind.
Or how when my ex was afraid I was kidnapping the cat when I went to fetch my belongings from our old apartment—said she was all he had—you encouraged me to get a cardboard box and prove him right.
Your not-too-subtle comments about my blonde hair, poufy lips, broad, flat face, and narrow hips. Any eye contact always seems to last too long between us.
More succulents arrive in your arms. Tiny barrels and blue stars, artichoke hearts and saguaros. You carry them in plastic containers up the walk.
I’ll build you a patio, you say, with lawn chairs, lanterns, and lights. You do it in one afternoon. Afterward, we sit in the turquoise ones you bought and unfolded beneath the jasmine shrub. The mosquitos bite you but not me. You swat at them and spray fogger along the doorframe.It frosts the space surrounding you, revealing your hidden angel wings, elegant as carved ice. Your eyes turn downcast when you know I’ve seen them. They always appear at times like this.
I’m not mad, I say. Just sad a little.
Come on, now, are your only words. I hear the low, guttural moan of my conscience. Motherrrrr, I suppress. You kill a mosquito and mutter fucker under your breath.
Not mad at all.
Instead, I anticipate when you’ll arrive next. The puppet show you and dad put on the dashboard as you wave. The car tilting along the curb, like a gypsy caravan. Your bodies like acrobats, swinging on invisible trapezes over the sidewalk. How your headlights glow cherry-red at dusk.
While I admit we don’t have much in common, at the end of the day, I’m still your daughter—your blood and kin.
I stare at the gifts, at the blank expressions of flowers. Your butterfly kisses turn into live specimens. Rain slowly patters the greening step.
I miss you more than any of this.

 

 

 

Katie Nickas writes literary and speculative fiction. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has appeared in Asymmetry, Oddville Press, and STORGY literary journals and on websites including CultureMap San Antonio, The Rivard Report, and her personal blog at katienickas.wordpress.com

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