Everything she thought in her head, she imagined writing as if she were a magical realist author. The night she had a fever, she imagined describing herself as having caught fire, and been consumed by the flames, and risen like the Phoenix. As she ate her mom’s granola, her teeth crunched through the seeds of he mother’s love. Sitting across from her mom, she saw a frail and tiny bird come down and land on the table, tucking its head under its wing. Everywhere her mom went the tiny bird went, getting smaller and frailer by the minute, until it could no longer fly, but crawled on the ground. Her mother’s watery eyes went blank and turned light blue and could no longer see the present, only the past.
But her father…her father was not dead. Someone who is with you for 28 years takes at least that long to die. He wasn’t a ghost exactly, but he might have stepped into the room anytime, and the fact that he didn’t pained her. There was his diploma on the wall. There were more photos of him than ever in the living room. How could he be dead when so many images and thoughts of him still existed? If she had actually seen him dead, he might have become a ghost. But she had only seen a casket. There was no body. The last time she had seen him in person was helping him to put on his socks at her brother’s place in New York. Or maybe it was at her mom’s house. It must have been, because they had all driven there the next day. She had watched David Bowie’s ‘Lazarus’ in the car.
Somehow she couldn’t remember him in her childhood home that trip. Maybe because all her memories of him there blended together. Maybe because he was still grading his student’s tests. Maybe he was still grading his student’s tests somewhere else. It seemed more probable than him being in a box underground.
Once she dreamed that she visited him in the box underground. He was certainly dead, but he looked the same as ever. She dreamed about him frequently at first, and woke up to crappy days at work. She held her tears in and felt them waterfall down her neck into the deepest part of her stomach where they turned into ice.
She was in Pennsylvania for a month after he died. And then the month was up, and she was back on the road, doing business trips and acting strong, with her back straight. She cried in the airport in Austin because she imagined calling him and telling him she was in Austin. She went to a conference about silicon chip manufacturing, and left halfway through because the people scared her and the tears she had swallowed in order to hide them were coming up ice cold from her stomach and she felt like she would vomit. She ran back to the airbnb and the tears ripped out of her as sobs. She roared like a bear, and her hair grew into a lion’s mane, and she became a wild animal, dangerous to look at. She ripped the pillows into shreds with her claws, and threw the furniture against the wall. Nothing was going to stop her from her reign of terror in this place. Nothing was going to stop her roars and bellows. The earth shook, and a crack appeared in the asphalt that tore its way up Congress Ave. A man in cowboy boots fell into the abyss and was never seen again, and a stray dog was also lost, but neither were missed.
A tiny woman baking cornbread in her apartment felt the lion’s roars and remembered when she herself had been transformed into a lion. She rushed downstairs and found the door and knocked three times. The roars stopped. A crack opened in the door and the woman saw an animal, a girl with the mane of a lion but a face that was gentle and bewildered. The tiny woman gave the lion-woman a hug and her sobs petered into whimpers. The crack in Congress St heeled itself up, and the sun came out from where it was hiding behind the clouds.
She never sobbed like that again, and she had never sobbed like that before. Her lungs lost the capacity to do anything more than a small sob. Her hair, however, remained like a lion’s mane, and from then on, no matter what products she used or what salon she went to, within 24 hours her hair was back in its manelike form.