fifty-one (red)

by nike, February 10, 2015

Ashley Ellis. Principal Dancer of Boston Ballet. Photograph by Ken Browar and Deborah Ory, of NYC Dance Project. June, 2014.

Over the weeks leading up to my mother’s death, I went out into the orchard each night and trained myself to see in the dark. This was at her insistence. A training I at first refused.

Initially, the only things I could see were shadows. I navigated by scent and memory. This is the lemon tree; here the orange; here the fig. Here is the pear, the pomegranate and the peach.

Go further, my mother said. Glamour is dangerous magic. So I left the orchard, pushed through into the forest. Stones and twigs beneath my feet. Uneven ground. Things that slither; things that bite. Take off your shoes, she whispered. Take off your dress.

Down the hill I walked. No, nothing so elegant. I slipped, half-tumbled. Something wet and living brushed my cheek. I stood in the dam, mud and weed. Above my head, the stars thrown carelessly into the sky. I wept.

That night, I crushed the pills into her wine. You will always be beautiful, my mother said. You will always be strange.

I held out the cup.  She drank it all, bitter though it was, and thanked me.

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