today i was 12 hours early for a dinner-date so i drove past my parents’ house four times and didn’t knock because every time i do the bird-thing in there gets scared and you probably didn’t know this but captive pet birds will die of an anxious heart attack if you chase them around their own cage even if you are trying to help / EVEN IF YOU ARE TRYING TO HELP / and most days my hands look more cage than hold anyway so i can’t imagine what i’d look like to that small a heartbeat / and you probably didn’t know this either but captive pet birds will adopt the vocal inflections of their people-family / will warble the same melancholy as my father alone in the kitchen at 3 AM or a similar scrubbed staccato as my sister’s 5 PM flute-practice and one time i chased the bird-thing around my house until it could say COME BACK in my own voice / until i heard my own voice tell me to COME BACK / and one time the bird-thing let me catch it and when i opened my hands i found the heartbeat and it scared me and you probably didn’t know this but even when captive pet birds are surrounded by their people-family and they can respond to a voice with a similar voice they still know these voices are not the / same type and will most likely get lonely if not paired with the / same type of voice so one time i chased a voice around my bedroom in my parents’ house because it sounded similar and remember what i said about my hands? well you probably didn’t know this but one time the voice told me my hands looked like hold and then looked closer and re-named them caged- heartbeat and i said i didn’t understand and they said COME BACK. I’M TRYING TO HELP. COME BACK. so something bigger than me knocked at my chest-house until i woke up alone in a voice- kitchen / UNTIL I WOKE UP ALONE / and you probably didn’t hear the bird-thing in there beating its heart up against my parents’ cage but i did. so i held my hands back from the knock. kept driving.
THE ALTERNATE UNIVERSE WHERE MY MOTHER DOES NOT TELL ME THAT I NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT WHEN I COME HOME FROM COLLEGE IS THE SAME UNIVERSE WHERE WE BOTH HAVE BEARDS //
i am eating an entire red-velvet cake with my hands. the cake is frosted with cream-cheese icing / some of which is getting in my beard / but my hands are already messy so i can’t do anything about it. and my mother is making eye contact with me from across the table. we are in a restaurant where they only serve whole cakes / so in this universe, my mother eats a full meal (in this universe, my mother eats) i lean back in my chair. my hands are caked in cake. i put one finger in my mouth at a time and scrape the excess off with my teeth. we are still making eye contact. more cake is falling into my beard. there is cream-cheese icing frosting my mustache. my mother picks up her utensils. they are both knives. my mother starts to cut the cake. first vertically, then horizontally, then diagonally, then she keeps going. my mother is slicing through the plate like she is gutting a fish. in this universe, my mother has gutted a fish before (in this universe, my mother has not gutted me before) we are still making eye contact because by this point, my mother is pretty good at sawing through foundational structures and doesn’t need to look at what she’s doing to know she’s making mess (in this universe, i am not the mess my mother makes) finally she puts her knives down. she has bitten through her tongue. there is blood soaking her beard. i am combing through my own beard with my own knife. it keeps catching on the bits of dried icing. i bring my knife to my mouth and lick it as erotically as possible. my mother is furious at the spectacle i am making / but she can’t say anything to me, because in the confusion of cutting she swallowed her own tongue / she has not touched her cake, so this is the only thing she has eaten today / in both universes, my mother devours herself before she admits to wanting anything else. my mother’s beard is so long she has to braid it and flip it over her shoulder before she can eat her own cake. i am already done with mine / but there are still some crumbs attached to the plate / so i lift it up so it is covering my face and gnaw at what remains. this is how my mother and i break eye contact. on the other side of my plate, she is finally eating her cake (when other people stop watching, she finally eats) in both universes, i am full long before she is (in both universes, i am full and she is not) plate still obscuring my face, i get out of my chair and back out of the restaurant. i pay in knives to replace the ones my mother will steal for her own gutting later. in this universe, my mother does not notice when i leave (in both universes, i have already left)