Bad and Incomplete Prayer for Melanija
I fashioned a boat out of un-composted leftovers and bobbed over the Atlantic on infant armor, thinner than money, winter-cold. Zampolli paid for my visa, and a few months later, my tits; far more reliable flotation devices than eggshells, as it happens. Mama hated witches. After she cracked the eggs Dad demanded each morning for breakfast, she’d make me mash their fractured outsides into dust between my palms. Leave no rafts for them, she’d scold, they mustn’t be granted chance to travel. Papa raged against her superstitions, red as the devil through his whole neck at the mere mention of unseen order; he’d find each tenderly concealed rosary and crunch the beads under foot on our kitchenette floor. But she never cried, Doctor, because she knew he couldn’t find the most secret places she kept God. No man dared smudge the sanctum of her thoughts.
So, no, I did not intend to drag New Town to New York. I didn’t have to. Modernity animates our memories, it programs our affections. Daily, my Loubs crunch a thousand hopes and faiths to blended sediment beneath their soles, not a grain native to the site of stomping. Bloody bottoms, indeed. Every big thing has itchy roots in small places. Dad sold cheap cars to bad men and wished Westerners asphyxiation under high piles of Levis. He wished Reds the same fate, and you wonder why his daughter fought for photos in four hundred dollar denim! You wonder why his little girl built engines from stolen proteins, why her fuels still hammer louder than klapocs, or Mama’s hexes, even. Or do you wonder? You might not, actually; you’re terminally American. You might assume instead that big, blended life in land calcified by the sweat of ardent immigrants beams greener than the hills they left, right? As if Tito didn’t lease freedom, as if great men will ever abstract their hands from hauntings wrought, sanguine or cadaver-still. Generals, capitalists, radicals—they all reject the inevitable noun-ness of living. It’s hubris.
Do you know the first time I saw gold in person, I didn’t understand that it could bend?
He wore a cheesy necklace and I said I liked it to make him remember me. “Real gold”, he oozed, “take a bite, darling!” “Of what?” I asked, and together they all laughed one, thick, jagged laugh. So I pressed his pendant between my molars because that might make a good picture, and even consumables grow fangs when close-ups call. And it bent, Milton! The alloy sunk into my cavities and the instant I tasted every last metallic contour of its sour I knew, young as I was, that I could become the knife gold couldn’t. I could sink my body into preciousness so secrets might bloom smudge-free from any cracks my shell sustained. Glance once around this penthouse, Doctor! This is my element. Every inch is smothered in ductile transition, carats upon carats, pounds upon pounds! Fingerprints everywhere, all mine. They pattern a thin, flick-able coating over the notion of home. And I keep home burrowed deep, where no man can touch it. I know about caves.
My lack of action might drift around me like parted seas if I just, you know, kept still. And it worked, for a time. I’m gorgeous, Doctor, almost caustic in my physical perfection, as you’ve noted multiple times when the door is closed. I was, at least. I can pass for blonde. And if, like my husband, all those faces packed with impure sand assumed I was some sort of idiot, they would at least miss the truth of my cowardice. The weakness I studied. I was just following directions; isn’t that what they always say? I never expected the machine of history to cower at my touch. And now, look around us, Milton! Hasn’t paradise revealed itself? All straight lines and weaponized math. Missiles howl and brown seas boil. Destruction becomes butter. The witches are traveling again. If I continue to do nothing, I am nothing, right? Can you promise me that, Milton? I’ll ensure no one remembers my name. I’ll shift into an unseen thing, tunneling into red-soaked guilt with all the force of his hatred. But I still hear him, even so. His voice echoes through the red-walled chambers in this golden, melting corpse. In paralysis our ending sleeps, embalmed like deboned fish in aspic.
Torey Akers is an artist and writer living in Brooklyn, NY. She received an MFA in Painting from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2016. Her prose has been published in Witchsong, Fog Machine, Occulum Journal, and Queen Mob's Tea House.