People mill around, wait for the start of the show.
Two guys stand in the row above me, discuss gazpacho in near-orgasmic terms. One has an upside-down cross hung from the ring in his nose, his jacket a paean to Satan, his demeanor the easy comfort of one who rules many with benign power.
His friend is a small, mousy sort, with horn-rimmed glasses. A smattering of acne peppers his face. He will grow up, go to college, get a job, forget this concert. The shirt he wears will be thrown away or given to the Salvation Army.
Outside, the concession stand has run out of hot dogs. A man bites into his own hand, chews. A jet of blood stains his mustache. He smiles, picks up the mustard.
A bevy of plastic sirens roves over the arena, call would-be sailors in tuneless voices. The pair of glasses behind me roves over blackclad breasts as a trio of them walk down the stairs, through the arch to the concessions.
The mustachioed gourmet regurgitates maggots from his dead flesh—no, just sauerkraut. Perhaps he should have used ketchup instead. He goes back to his seat.
Some in the first row begin to wonder if the band has yet entered the arena.
You stand there in front of the reptile cages at Petco, your hands at your side, accepting the do not tap the glass stickers as law. You watch them with academic interest, not with want like your older sisters, although you tell me you wouldn’t mind a snake if Fishstix, our cat, wouldn’t try to eat it. Some grow large enough to eat babies, you continue matter-of-factly, pushing your glasses up your nose, but I remind you that your little sister is seven and too large to be eaten by a snake. A woman tosses an odd look our way, but I ignore her.
You used to live inside a glass cage like the snakes do, air controlled perfectly, but they called it an isolette. You lived the first two months of your life inside this glass cage, small enough to fit entirely in my two hands pressed together like a bowl. I was allowed one hour a day to hold you, but only if you tolerated it. I still dream of the beeps and shrieks from those machines that kept you alive. You were my third child, and yet changing your diapers terrified me. I used to wonder if you even knew I was your mother, as my milk was given to you via feeding tubes and nurses tended to you more than I did. A recorder played our voices inside your cage, your dad and I reading stories while your older sisters shrieked and giggled in the background, but I feared you wouldn’t know us--wouldn’t know me.
Your sisters weren’t old enough to come inside the NICU, so they pressed their faces to the hallway windows and looked into the vivarium of many babies inside many cages and tried to figure out which one was their sister. When you were big enough, a nurse would take you out and hold you as close to the window as the wires connected to you allowed and your sisters marveled at you, how tiny and weird you were, careful to never tap the glass.
Now you grab my hand, strong and slightly clammy, and pull me towards your next curiosity.
I wish the machete stayed buried in the monster. I wish the monster stayed buried in the lake. I wish I could rewind the movie and let the girl recover: her prom night, her friends, her clothes, her bucketful of optimism in those first fifteen minutes. Sometimes, after the credits, a hand ejects from the grave and latches on. The girl kicks and kicks and kicks. The audience may argue it’s a dream sequence. It isn’t. She will use therapy and capsules and razors to remove the unsightly feature, but the insistent fingers remain. She will learn to wear wide leg pants to hide her new anklet. Her friends will call it a statement. In the winter, she will tuck the dead appendage into the plush mouth of an Ugg boot. With its rampant short shorts and flip flops, she will resent summer. She will try frolicking on the beach with her dead, purple pet flailing, and the boys will laugh and laugh and laugh. Sometimes the hand seizes the happy ending, and the girl struggles until the screen goes black.
FLASH GLASS: A MONTHLY PUBLICATION OF FLASH FICTION, PROSE POETRY, & MICRO ESSAYS