Not oblong. Rounder than the moon. I was older than my brother, resented my father buying him a bicycle, and then one night, he said, Daddy, I swallowed a safety pin. My parents asked again and again, Was it open? Closed or open? I smiled, shook my head. I lied, he finally said. Why? my father wondered. For attention. A year later, he stuck a needle in my football. As an Air Force lifer, he married a female version of himself, traveled to Spain and France.
I married my double, didn’t travel, considered him my ex-brother and forgot him like an old birthday card. I didn’t hear from him until the year my wife fought cancer like a boxing champion, when he phoned. Can I borrow money for a new car? he asked. I’m not your credit union, I said. A month ago he sent me a green soccer ball inscribed with Sorry and the nickname I gave him.
David Spicer is a former medical journal proofreader. He has published poems in Santa Clara Review, Synaeresis, Chiron Review, Remington Review, unbroken, Third Wednesday, CircleStreet, The Bookends Review, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Yellow Mama, The Midnight Boutique, and elsewhere. Nominated for a Best of the Net three times and a Pushcart, he is author of one full-length poetry collection, Everybody Has a Story (St. Luke’s Press) and six chapbooks, the latest of which is Tribe of Two (Seven CirclePress). His new full-length collection of poems, Waiting for the Needle Rain, is now available from Hekate Publishing. His website is https://www.davidspicer76.com/
would tilt her head back and gaze at the ceiling as if she was a distressed
saint or a Caravaggio painting. Her eyes turned up to God or the ceiling fan,
whichever was closer, praying for the winning lottery ticket or complaining
that wine had become so expensive. After she uncurled from her back bend she
would complain how her shoulders ached every time she evoked Our Lord and
Savior and that she wished she didn’t learn this praying style from her mother.
Her father had bent forwards not backwards but as she said with a bitter
encrusted laugh, he wasn’t a very nice man and so she preferred to not mimic
him in anyway.
lived two floors up from me, in an apartment that smelled like her parrots who
were named after vegetables. I was not allowed to even whisper that I was
‘cutting the tomatoes’ or ‘washing the lettuce,’ as her birds were very
sensitive creatures. She loved them so much that she allowed their talons to
dig into her arms and shoulders leaving her skin with tear-shaped scars. She
would then laugh as I traced them, saying “love
is pain is a cliché because it is true,” and then slapped my fingers away
as if I was suddenly an intruder. She claimed that one bird, ‘radish’, was as
old as her. I then asked how old she was because she couldn’t have been over
forty. She smiled at me and said that because she didn’t go out in the sun and
her wrinkles were late, she didn’t know anymore. Her mother bent backwards to
God to age backwards, she would say, so she would do the same. She mimicked her
mother because she was a nice woman and Rosalia wished to be a nice woman.
came to Rosalia because she was a deep kisser and could read the tealeaves or
the left over coffee granules depending on your preferences. I came because I
was lonely and she was lonely and because meetings in hallways always felt
insufficient when they lasted long enough for feet to ache. The first time she
lead me up to her apartment, she promised me a fortune as I looked like I was
futureless. She said she would give me a future even if it only lasted an hour.
So I followed because I was bored of the waiting for something to happen that
seemed to sit down and press on my twenties. I followed because she seemed to
know what was best. For a moment Rosalia made me feel older than I was. Rosalia
would trace the line of my palm and say “unlucky in love,” as if I didn’t love her
already. Her apartment of plastic covered furniture oddly felt too comfortable.
Her bed unmade was exactly what I wished it to be.
Rosalia would greet me at the door with her dressing gown and a cigarette between her lips and tell me how there was no one in the city who smokes anymore. She would cry out that she could only love a smoker knowing that every time she offered I declined. She would stroke my face, as she would say that she could only love someone older, for the sake of maturity. I was too young, didn’t smoke, couldn’t cook, the birds did not like me and I was lonely. I only learnt later that Rosalia was never lonely, rather she used loneliness. She could find the lonely in any corner, a sixth sense for those diminished of what she would say is “the true company of the miserable”. I learnt later that Rosalia was never truly miserable, for she was known for never turning down those that needed a friend but was also known for not loving them. Rosalia would tilt her head back and gaze at the ceiling as if she was a distressed saint or a Caravaggio painting. I soon learnt that was my signal to leave.
Chariklia Martalas is a Philosophy, Politics, English and History graduate from the University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her work has been featured in Rigwelter Press, Isacoustic, The Raw Art Review, Loch Raven Review, Bending Genres and the undergraduate literary journal The Foundationalist. Her work is forthcoming in Drunk Monkeys
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