Ring around the rosie, pockets full of posies, ashes, ashes. The game is a circle that moves on eight legs. We are a spider of four hairless girls. Our small hands are squeezed inside other small hands and more small hands; groping for a hold. We all fall down. Damp grass sticks to our knees, leaving the imprints of grass in our skin. One girl is on top of the other. I am on top of Carlee. We are a four layer birthday cake of little girl arms and legs and hair and little girl lips. We are a pile of new skin. Most of us haven’t been touched by anyone yet. This is how fresh we are. The spinning is our drug, upside is down, grass is now the sky. The green rises, blue is underfoot, it’s the waves we float towards.
I hate my hands. I bite my nails until they are raw. The hole of my mouth always needs filling and my game is to peel away the cuticles, then bite the beds until they bleed. I’m little, the littlest you can be while still noticing you’re alive. My hands are exposed nerves, salt and sediment. Why suck a thumb when you can digest it?
I feel a tickle under my gingham skirt when the girls brush my hair. The bristles work snake slithers from my crown to behind my belly button. The vibration ends up in my underwear when they tend to me like a mother. Duck, duck. you little goose.
I’m spinning in a gang of feral dervishes. We conjure spotty magic. We’re afraid of witches but know all the spells. Witches are Halloween are pretty princesses who’ve been bad. Witches are Salem. We play burn at the stake and my mother smokes Salems in a soft pack with the silver sliver. She eats three packs a day in a private sacred ceremony. Light as a feather, stiff as a board. I’m spinning in a Baltimore backyard and my father is inside sleeping. He’s tired from planting seeds all summer; sowing them by stabbing butter knives from the cluttered kitchen drawer into the ground.
We make ourselves dizzy on purpose because what else is there but the sky, the blue of our eyes, pupils against the sun? We have growing pains; deep sprains in our calves and wrists, a sensation of our organs stretching. We are starving, rutting into the wetness of girlhood.
Mommy holds a buttercup under my chin and tells me the reflection is the sun and that I am her sunshine, her only sunshine. I make her happy when skies are grey. My chin is yellow and I taste the leftover burn of reconstituted orange juice. The juice came from a can, snapped open, aluminum ends sliced with a rusted opener. All our food comes in a box or a can or a bag. My favorite is broccoli: a giant green ice cube covered in cheese frosting. We heat it in a square in a pot until it burns. Where do fish sticks come from? McNuggets? Hungry Men? I was ten before I knew French fries were potatoes. The pot pies are an endless conveyor belt of salty cubed kibble and plastic peas shoveled into my face. I lick the aluminum tin dry. I am never full.
In the basement, I kiss Carlee and we play parents. I’m on top, grinding. My mother explains that night how the flowers know to come in spring. In the front yard, there are bulbs under the earth, she tells me. I planted them. These bulbs are blooms, not light. She brings me closer and whispers. The flowers come when it’s time for flowers. It isn’t that time yet, but oh, it’s coming.
Lu Chekowsky is an Emmy-winning writer and creative director who built a successful career in media through gut intuition and addiction to approval. In 2020, she was a writer in residence at MASS MoCA in Massachusetts, Gullkistan in Iceland, and attended the Tin House Summer Workshop with Saeed Jones. Her recent work can be seen in Pigeon Pages, Hobart, and Bending Genres.