Monsters and Dust

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The events are long dissipated, but he knows the photos of her bathing him as an infant, a toddler, pulling his hair up into coiling spirals of shampoo foam, both smiling easily, him with a rubber duckie and a plastic red bobbing boat. She looked not dissimilar to now, simply not yet faded.

Her legs bulge in odd spots, melted fists behind her knees, a shape fighting outward finding form in compromise, her ankles like tents filled with rain.

Jagged blue veins web her legs. Her porcelain skin-tone has shattered and yet she remains upright as much as she does, the give in her step, the slip between cracked plates.

This webbing appears without central roots, apparently no center at all, surprises Will. He’d expect exploded veins to look like veins and he doesn’t know what veins look like but he’d expect them to have major thoroughfares and branches departing from these like snaking two lane highways off an interstate. But no major roads are drawn out in double thickness. It is instead all equal shattering without a point of primary convergence, without a connecting narrative running through them, without a map of the body projected on to the screen of its own soft parchment like flaked filo dough, no center, no beginning, no end, no momentum, no path traced, no map laid, no landscape, simply flatness.

She looks up at him unblinkingly, mouth tight, nostrils flared. She breathes deeply. Her chest heaves heavy. He returns her stare, nodding. She’s asking something of him, something between ‘does he mind? Does he understand this from her perspective? Does he get it? Can he stomach this?’ all in this look he’s never seen before from her, the look of a hunted squirrel cornered. Her large glasses amplify her gaze.

‘Gimme your glasses Nana.’

‘Oh really?’

She chokes and reaches thumb and index finger to her glasses’ arm, but once gripping pauses.

‘I don’t know. I’m really blind without them.’

‘I know.’

With a bend and hard pull he quiets the faucet. Turning back to her, again standing over her, he finds her paused, concentrating on the grout of the seam at turn of the tub from the tiles behind him, pinching still at the watch-screws of her glasses, nostrils open.