Tuesday, June 30, 2009


“I passed by and saw you helplessly kicking about, covered in your own blood. I said to you, ‘live’ and you lived. You thrived like a plant in the field. You grew up and became beautiful. Your breasts became full and your hair grew long, but still, you were naked and bare.”

-Ezekiel 16: 6-7

Ada was seven years old when she cut her bangs off at the scalp, leaving a shocked row of thick blond stubble in a crescent shape across the top of her brow. A week later, while changing the sheets, her mother found the nest of hair secretly crammed between the box spring and the mattress.

When the girl turned eighteen she disappeared for three days and came home from Savannah with two exultant seraphs tattooed on both sides of her chest. The seraphim’s feet, arched back and pointed downward, as if in the first moments of flight, were covered over by a pair of wings that looked as if they had been chiseled out of stone that extended down to her lowest ribs. The highest wings swooped out in front of the seraphim’s faces and converged directly between her breasts, almost touching tip to tip at the base of her neck. That night Ada stood in her bra in the wooden paneled living room of her step father’s house, sweaty, indignant and proud and said, “Are you crying?” and her mother said, “Dear Jesus,” and walked out. Her mother wept bitterly and accidentally broke one of the fake glass handles on the chest of drawers. In bed, her husband's skin smelled strangely sour again, again, where does it come from, that smell. She was exhausted and sad.

“She was so pretty. I don’t understand why she does half the things she does. She’s just plain determined to ruin her self anyway she can and now she is going to look like some kind of freak, and she can’t wear her pretty dresses anymore, or maybe she will and then it will be worse. God it’s awful. Ted, are you awake? I mean it really is awful. Did you see her? The things she gets into her head. I can’t imagine where…well it’s from her father is where. He was always getting all sorts of foolishness stuck in his head and doing and talking all sorts of foolishness and making a mess of everything. Ted?”

“Uh huh”

“I love you.”

“Love you too sugar.”

The next day in the grocery store her mother stood with a wooden face before an arrangement of white tulips, the cool sugared air from the flower case moving across her wrists and touching her thighs. She imagined Ada soaking in a bathtub. She saw an image of herself kneeling by the tub with a bar of soap in her hand, watching as the bath water turned an inky shade of blue. The seraphim on the sides of her daughter’s chest turned hazy, the sharp contrast and details of the feathers and the powerful and ominous arc of the wings dissolved and ran down over her ribs and into the water like blood. Then there was only the dull shape, a faint outline on her sides and across the top of her breasts where the triumphant creatures had been, and soon even that was gone completely, and the pale skin seemed more perfect than usual. It seemed to cast its own light. Her mother imagined kissing her ravenously, the backs of her hands, behind her ears. The taste of soap. She saw the inky water running down the drain and the dark line it would leave around the inside edge of the tub.

It was when the stock boy needed to squeeze by her that she realized where she was and that she was quietly crying again. Then she wiped her face and bought an arrangement of tulips, because they were on sale and also because she was embarrassed to think she had been seen staring at them.