42W349 Hunters Hill Dr
St. Charles, IL 60175
The yards are separate in this neighborhood, divided by shrubs, fences, trees, sloped drives, and flowered bushes. We sit on our deck. The deck is stained wood, not a concrete slab. My father stands and grills. My mother sits and sips a glass of wine.
She looks toward the woods. She says, come here. I sit down next to her. She runs her fingers through my hair. She looks away from me.
My little sister’s getting old enough to play with. We make paper dolls and paper airplanes that do not fly anywhere. We write in diaries that we pretend to hide from one another. We ride bikes in circles round the cul de sac.
My sister calls my name across the room at night.
She says, I saw a ghost.
It looked like you, if all your colors were sucked out.
She says, I didn’t feel afraid. You shouldn’t feel afraid.
There is no reason. We agree that ghosts are just a fact of life.
My mother stands behind me in the mirror.
She sprays a vapor cloud of hairspray on my hair, then on her own.
Before I go to sleep, I stand behind the footboard of my bed. I bend and press my stomach down into the edge. I feel like something’s getting sucked out from my body, something that was trapped. I breathe in little breaths, my fingers tracing round my hipbones.
I walk from room to room and lie down on the sunbeams. All the rooms are strange. They all seem larger than they need to be. My mother is complaining to my dad about the house, again. She wants to move into another house for sale in the neighborhood.
I hear the distant humming of our neighbor’s lawn mower. It creeps in closer, closer, as it moves across the lawn. I close my eyes as I imagine moving to another house, and then another, til we’ve lived in every house within this neighborhood.
4N258 Mark Twain St
Campton Hills, IL 60175
Every day, the babysitter picks me up from school. We drive through town to pick my sister up from daycare. Her car is brown. It smells like cigarettes and dogs, although she doesn’t have a dog and I have never seen her smoking.
We pick my sister up and we drive to the grocery store. The grocery store has three columns in front with concrete arches. My sister rides inside the cart. The babysitter lets me push the cart around while she goes through the aisles.
While she goes through the aisles, I wheel the cart up to the glass case in the wall. Inside the case, a monkey lives, alone. There is a little fake tree and a little rubber ball, a little plastic toy the monkey’s chewed to almost disappearance.
Behind the glass, the case is made of concrete, like a zoo, but it is smaller than the window of a pet store. I hold up my hand, then press it to the glass. The monkey inches close enough that I can see his sad black eyes.
Years later, I am driving past the babysitter’s house. My mother’s riding in the front seat and my sister’s in the back. I say, do you remember when we saw that monkey in the grocery store? The one who lived inside a glass case in the wall?
My sister says she did, she did! What was the monkey doing there?
I know, I say. I don’t know. What a bad place for a monkey!
My mother looks at us like we’re both crazy.
I have never seen a monkey in a grocery store.
5 N 5th St
Geneva, IL 60134
I hate ballet because I have to watch my movements in the mirror. I clench my teeth. I clench the bar and try to look away.
My teacher comes behind me. Her breath smells like tuna salad.
She says, focus, focus. She says, look at what you’re doing.
I look at the mirror and I think, demi plié, grand plié.
I look at the mirror and I look around me at the other girls.
I look at the mirror and I look at how my stomach sticks out.
I look at the mirror and I think, I’m fat.
Another girl looks at me in the mirror.
I look down.
The teacher comes behind me.
Focus, focus! Tuna breath.
The only part of class I like is when the teacher lets us choose a bunch of colored scarves out of a bin. She plays Swan Lake on her boom box. She says, feel the music. She tells us to channel what we feel through our dancing.
I always think of this, years later, whenever I watch that breaking down scene in A Woman Under The Influence. Gena Rowlands plays Swan Lake. She keeps announcing that it’s perfect. She tells her children to dance like they’re dying. Die, now!
I dance like I’m dying. That is what I feel from the music. I think, Die, now! and I lie down on my back. The other girls are still dancing around me. I watch, from below. I watch their flailing pink skirts and their scurried shuffled movements.
103 E Lincoln
Pesotum, IL 61863
On our way to the family reunion, the baked beans explode. They explode from the pot and they flow out all over the van. It’s August and the summer sun makes sticky pools of everything as we kneel, scooping, scrubbing, while my mom says, shit.
We file down a long line of our relatives, of picnic tables filled with food.
We fill our plates with things that we can eat.
My dad can’t have dessert because he’s diabetic.
My sister can’t have chips because she’s overweight.
I tell my mom, this year, I am not going to eat meat. I tell her, this year, I’m becoming vegetarian.
She tells me I can be a vegetarian when I turn 10. She watches to make sure I take a chicken leg.
I scrape the fried skin off the chicken’s leg.
I look beneath the twists of bluish veins.
I scrape my fork until the leg is just an empty bone.
I look around me and I think, we’re eating what’s inside of us.
42W068 Hunters Hill Dr
St. Charles, IL 60175
My mother makes me be friends with the daughter of her friend. I do not like the way this girl is always smelling her own hands. At least her house has interesting stuff. Her basement’s filled with boxes of old hats and gloves and jewelry and dresses.
I put on a blue dress.
She puts on yellow dress.
My dress smells like an old book.
Her dress smells like chicken soup.
I think that we should switch, she says. We switch. We look at ourselves in the full length mirror.
We take the dresses off. We stand inside their crumpled shells.
I look at her, then look down. I ask, so, what does it feel like?
What does what feel like?
Having…you know. I cover up my naked chest.
She says, like nothing. There’s just something there, one day.
You just get used to it.
I look back down. I see, I say.
I sneak a quick peak at her pointy nipples.
In the kitchen, her mother is cutting slices of fresh baked zucchini bread. She puts two slices on a plate for each of us.
I say, no thank you. I’m not hungry. I already had lunch.
It’s not lunch. She frowns. It’s just a snack, she says.
Beneath the table, I am rolling my thumbs round my wrist bone.
I am measuring the width that it should be.
77 Maple Court
Decatur, IL 62526
My grandmother’s house is filled with blonde wood paneling. The pale wood reflects the gauzy shadows from the curtains. Everything is shades of white, or yellow white. Checkered linoleum. Chenille coverlets. A mason jar of lemon drops.
Her house smells like old wood, sun crisped lace, and, emerging from the kitchen, endless streams of watery brewed coffee.
There is a wardrobe in the basement with a mirror in the door. When I was little, I would hide inside the wardrobe. Now, I open up the wardrobe, take my clothes off, and look in the mirror. I shift my body side to side. I move the mirror back and forth.
In her bedroom, there’s a crucifix. The cross is made of wood. Jesus is made of bone white, molded, chiseled plastic. The drops of perspiration, tears, and blood are also white, carved plastic outlines. He is naked. The nails in his hands and feet are real nails.
I sit next to my grandmother and page through her photo albums.
Is he dead? I ask.
She says, yes.
Is she dead? I ask.
She says, yes.
Are they dead? I ask.
She says, some are, some aren’t.
I nod. That dress is beautiful.
She says, I loved that dress.
There are two scales in the house, one in the upstairs bathroom, one inside the basement bathroom, tucked inside a cabinet.
On the scale upstairs, I weigh 87 pounds.
On the scale in the basement, I weigh 86.
I shift. 86.5.
I shift again. 86.
22655 W South St
Lake Geneva, WI 53147
The counselors call it outdoor ed. I’m staying in a room with two bunks and three other girls that I just met. We made friends on the bus when we discovered how much we all love The X-Files, though we aren’t allowed to watch.
We run through the snowing hills and we take pictures. I take pictures of a dead tree and a half collapsed old barn. The hills are white rounds tipped with shades of trees and blackish brown triangles. We climb to the highest triangle and sled all the way down.
That night, inside the room, one of the girls says, let’s pretend we’re ghosts. We wrap ourselves in sheets. She says, okay. Now all we need is make-up. She does not have make-up. I do not have make-up. None of us has any make-up. So, we put the sheets back on our beds.
My new best friend whispers, I’ve seen a real ghost, but I was not afraid.
I say, you shouldn’t be afraid.
The food here sucks. We all agree the food here sucks. I vow that for the whole two weeks we’re here, I’ll just eat cornflakes. My friends laugh. They say, me too, but after the first night, they all go back to eating what they’re given. I’m the only one who doesn’t eat the food.
One of the counselors notices that I’m not eating.
My best friend says, it’s okay. She really, really just likes cornflakes.
I feel sick. I can’t go out today. I’m tired. My best friend gives me her gameboy. She says, please get better soon. By the end of the trip, I don’t fit into any of my clothes. My mother picks me up and drives me through the winter dusk in silence.
We stop at the drug store. She takes in my camera. She buys me a gallon of water, sits, and makes me drink the whole thing in the car.
She hands me my photos. I open up the envelop.
The pictures are just black rectangles, blurs, white fields of nothing.
Meghan Lamb lives with her husband in St. Louis. Her novella, Sacramento, was recently released on Solar Luxuriance. Her book, Silk Flowers, is forthcoming in early 2016 from Birds of Lace. Her work can also be found in The Collagist, Necessary Fiction, Spork, wigleaf, and other places.
Street Art by stikman.
Photo by Adam Lawrence.
Post Animal is a psych-rock band from Chicago and "Goggles" comes from their new EP, Post Animal Perform The Most Curious Water Activities.