IT’S A TIME before our own – before 1987, when she labored for 6 hours trying to meet me – and my mother traps me inside our wooden cabin. The cabin, of which I only see the kitchen through a sepia lens, holds strong against the powdery winds of the West. My knowledge of the West in this era spans as far as Hollywood’s depiction of it – women in full, lace-trimmed skirts; cowboy hats kissing moonshine.
When I remember the dream where my mother kills me in our desert home, I picture her boarding up all the exits. Her mouth curled at the edges, the hem of her dress stirring up dirt as she circles the house scattering coal. I quickly realize the hearth is not the only source of smoke. Grey threads weave through cracks in the paneling, expanding into clouds. They surround me in swirls as the wooden walls pop and crackle sporadically, at first, until they begin to give in to the heat. Pop - I am as good as dead. Crack - my mother is a murderer. My body drops to the floor in an attempt to find breathable air, my hands gather the skirt of my frock and press it against my desperate mouth. No nod or explanation is ever given for why she wants me dead, but it never surprises me that she does.
She does not always do it with fire. She has also shot me with a polished pistol after taking twenty paces. She has pushed me into the roaring rapids as I wash clothes on the river shoreline. My quick-draw is never quick enough. I don’t know how to swim. The dreams come one at a time, although sometimes they pile behind each other. The scenes are divided by silent movie cards with ornate calligraphy - “Episode I,” “Episode 2,” “Episode 3.” A wagon train of mini-certain-deaths.
I wake one morning with the lingering image of my mother sitting cross-legged on dirt, watching our home furious and flaming. She waits until the elements absolve her. I enter the kitchen and my mother eyes me from the table as I pour bold brew into a coffee cup. Her middle finger thinks against her ceramic mug, tapping once and twice. She examines my movements, combs my face for something recognizable. With her voice even and nice she says, “Sometimes the child you want is not the child you get.”
I take a gulp full of coffee and smile a pure, silly smile right at her face. Confronted, she turns quickly toward the window, grimacing at the sunbeams. I cross my legs in my chair, my spine stretching.
Small death after small death, by now I am immortal.