--- A R I A N A -S O P H I A K A R T S O N I S
Magnolia was a tired drag queen in a southern town the wrong size for everything. The classified ad read: HOUSEMATE NEEDED. IF YOU DON'T MIND MY PERFUME AND PLASTIC FLOWERS THE OCCASIONAL SEQUIN GLINTING OFF THE BATHROOM TILE. YOU PAY HALF RENT AND UTILITIES, SAVE FOR WATER. I LIKE LOTS OF BUBBLE BATHS. That's how I found her ten years ago when I wandered through this place slipped into its languid skin and never left. We lived on Charlemagne Avenue on pretty lies and fluttery eyelashes, glitzy shoes and slit dresses cheapest fabrics but how they'd catch the right light and run with it. She found the boarded-off bit of me in the box leftover from another life. Then she was on a quest: collection scraps, rags, tatters, trying to piece me together, figure me out. We're bored Magnolia and me. So I pretend not to notice. Her sifting through and sneaking, the way her hair looks especially lackluster when the glossy wigs come off. She pretends not to notice my noticing. Magnolia's in my briefcase again. Old letters, photographs. Next she moves to a beaten trunk with a faded sticker that reads DELIVER TO M. HONOR, 103 BAXTER WAY Not my name nor my address. All along our street, the lightposts are covered with flyers. LOST CAT My favorite neighborhood cat, in fact, A black and white Persian named Abbey Has disappeared and I'm not surprised. Nothing beautiful can live here for long. Magnolia's dresses--tacky things--fade on the hanger and in the morning--her face seems shadowy, scuffed, too scruffy and old. In my next life, I'll be named Honor and my secrets will be ashes in a bulletproof chest at the bottom of the sea somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle. For now, like Magnolia, I'm up for grabs. We're too tired to leave. Fifteen furniture stores, three mental institutions, (Magnolia always said it was a great place to sit down and go crazy for a while.) religious supply shops, called Praise Him and Worship Corner, pawnshops and second-hand stores. This is a town for giving up. Sometimes, at night, when she leaves for work the drag show at Flash Gordon's I try on Magnolia's things her scratchy gowns, her snagged stockings, even the adhesive black dot of a beauty mark which I pull from the sheet of backing, placed above my upper lip just so the way she would. I crank up tubes of greasy lipsticks, read off their illicit names: Crushed Roses, Moon Flower, Bleeding Heart. Morning is washed clean with cold cream, swirls in colored water down the drain. In the next room, she's rifling through my suitcase, my chiffonier, my files, looking for something she'll never find: a bit of shininess and who I am and who she is because I'm here. The clues she finds flutter centipede-swift --so many fake eyelashes that sparkle from the stage with needle-strips of silver foil but up close turn false and flimsy, disappearing. I want to tell her it's all disguise. There is no essence. The torn envelopes, creased receipts, loveletters, postcards from people grown distant at best-lie. The photographs, only lost pictures of a time already changed before the flash fades.
© crossconnect, inc 1995-2002
published in association with the |
university of pennsylvania's kelly writers house |