Lemon Shortbread

By Breia Gore 

    When my grandmother works in the kitchen alone on Sunday afternoons, she knows not to keep the cutting knives out long enough for me to see them. Lemon shortbread is being made. Discussions are happening in the hallway. I am talked about like I am made of swamp water. Ghastly fog trailing my heels, each sentence uttered like motorcycle revving, my skin circles Jupiter bruises like nighttime pavement walks. My mother begins to cringe each time I say I am going to take a bath.

    These people talk about my swamp water like they know how it works, like being a defeatist is the only caliber I will ever measure up to, like I am one thing and never the other. Mother, you can grow bristle gardens to bloom pumpkin seeds and lemon shoots, you can have salt air stings by the oceans in dreamy, naive, lands, you can sit down at the family table every Sunday with Grandma’s cooking and still have cement blocks to hold up these broken ankle bones. They all weave in and weave out, do not confine this universe to one single emotion. Do not confine me to words the doctor etches into his clipboard.

       When I was younger, I was told my hair smelled of lemon shortbread. A flower on the tip of a cactus, bedeviled generously. I am both ends of a magnetic scale. I am uncontrollable range making dents. I am vomit all over the rose garden behind the church on Fourth Street. I am cracked, deranged, paranoid, what my mother calls fragile, what my doctors call unsafe, what I call a normal day. What I call me in the simplest form. Skin me and mount me up on your cabin walls, I will scream, “I am all of this! You do not know me!”   

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