Here is one of the stories that has been accepted for publication and is forthcoming in The Santa Fe Literary Review–look for it in Fall 2010 on SFCC campus.
S.L. Bond grew up in Santa Fe and will be studying photography at UNM this fall. She writes about gender and Judaism at her blog, Dear Diaspora (http://deardiaspora.wordpress.com).
THE LAST TIME YOU DYED YOUR HAIR:
ELEGY FOR A GIRLHOOD
The face stares lifelessly back at me. Afloat in its jar, its skin is puffed and pallid, fat lips parted, a pale moon being disgorged from the green kelp forest of hair. The sick scent of formaldehyde is everywhere, palpable and pressing as thick city smog.
I had called you comrade. I had run messages along spiders’ strings, crisscrossed classrooms, smuggling your scrawled bulletins and sending back my reply. And I had saved samples of your handwriting, this box a museum of our late adolescence, carefully preserved specimens, pinned and precious as butterflies. These are relics of a girlhood now dusted and forgotten, or in my case rejected: shorn off.
The face, truly, is a head, a spherical mass covered with thick, dark hair. Its neck is a stump, sewn shut. Oh face. Its eyelids are swollen closed, puckered in a perpetual kiss, and its dead lips threaten to sing to me, some familiar story we have tried so hard to snuff out.
I miss you in constant, quiet ways, rhythms murmured in the clicking clockwork of my chest. There is a lot of quiet now. I keep my own counsel. Secrets sleep snow-buried in my body, hibernating in joints and limbs, in thin coats across skin, awakened now and again by a lover’s wandering or misplaced finger—
Tearing through dresser drawers, I am hunting the last surviving pieces of women’s clothing. Stray t-shirts, panties, a pair of tights: holdouts, huddled in the darker corners, cockroaches in cotton and lace. I stuff them into trash bags and squeeze out the air as if to suffocate. The knot I tie in the black plastic is a noose. Here I am: the hangman of my former self.
I used to think you were less sensitive, but now I see you were just less sentimental. I was stuck in scrapbooks. You had run scissors around your paper cutout heart, placed it between the pages of some secondhand book like a dried and captured flower. You were long since ready to take it with you.
The head is suspended in thick, sallow liquid, something about the consistency of cold oil. Glass jar, five gallons, so heavy the wooden shelf bows slightly under its weight. The hair is a dense and tangled mass, stained an algal green from death and liquid. The throat: a jagged line of skin, sawed through, a darker gray around the edges. A mess of stitches in thick, coarse string.
And you: twenty now, experienced, you dry off with a dark towel, no longer yearning for evidence. A beautiful young woman now, somehow, all your anger washed out and away, visible once before disappearing, swirling in the basin with the last ever streaks of dye.
The day I decide to change my name is the day I realize every other name I have belongs, first, to a dead girl or woman: Sarah and Lisa and me, the person I used to be. I am sick of your weight, your dreams, your begging whispers. I am sick of your pleas. “Keep me, keep me.” Dead jar babies, your pretty faces saved from rot but not from the grotesque, your own inevitable ugliness. The ground would have been better.
None of us kiss and tell anymore.