A small piece of Styrofoam holds to the back cover of the book. Two crushed spheres, one connecting half-sphere, torn. It all comes off when I press my mother to it and pull away. It stays there again when I press it back. If anything, I have confirmed that I am missing something. Finding signatures from my mother exposes the problems I have with my mother to a stranger, only embarrassing because there are three more. I’m reminded of how I know how to be a companion to a mother, first, by holding the tip of a cat’s tail to her mouth while she bathes so that she reaches more angles, and then by resting a hand on the mother’s side when she’s startled by a benign noise from outside the room. I know it sounds strange, another one of my poor performances. I list how I arrived to this place; I list how often I changed the multiplying mothers from a list to a novel to a list to a novel. I begin again by only drinking milk, slowly transitioning from skim to whole with the progression of the day, ending with a thimble of heavy cream before sleep. The mothers have their fill; I dream of holding the tip of a coat hanger to a crow reaching from above, from a wire, cawing the sounds of the mothers footsteps in the room on the third floor. I hold the coat hanger to the back cover of the book, two covers splayed across their laps like wings drying in the sun that wakes me from the dream, and I gesture the sign of closing my eyes, again, to the spectacle of milk, day by day, to tear another mother from my mother, returning a memory by the many.
I can’t give up menageries and photographs. There are driving scenes in Psycho. And we drive places to drive in circles, but I was driving in the wrong direction. Suddenly filled with the cinematic sensation of entering an alternative reality, I tried to measure my U-turn with the pattern of the gusting winds. The capability of unfolding the pattern and then folding it back to how it should have been put a tightness in my throat, so I held my breath and thought of linguistics and family. It was a different voice who made up her own language in the space of my mouth, which I then whispered into a tune of familiarity to challenge my listening into thinking I understood her. Or it was the other way around and our language was a language put into the wrong tune. Vehicular manslaughter. I mistook U-turns because I was thinking of how cars themselves are manmade; they turn the slaughter into themselves. I turned into a circle. I drove in the opposite direction in the same lane, rather than a U, so that I would slaughter myself and not some other self. I was misinformed, I thought. Before trying to turn around again, I pulled my car to the side of the road and closed my eyes. I saw everything through my eyelids. Everything inside a red-fleshed peach. The shadows were the skin covered in fuzz. In them, I thought I saw a seagull in a parking lot eating a chicken wing: cannibalism. I’ll write another image of self-fear. I opened my eyes and turned around against the wind. This is a lesson in trust; the time when we got stuck waiting at a tollbooth behind cars lined up for a funeral and the sky turned purple.
Bailey Mestayer Pittenger has lived mostly between Appalachia and the Deep South. She has an MA in English from Wake Forest University and an MFA from the University of Notre Dame. Her writing can be found in Glittermob, Gigantic Sequins, Denver Quarterly, and elsewhere. She is currently a PhD student at the University of Denver. Twitter: @baimestayer