Emergence of a Nurse
Rita doesn't want to run her gallery anymore and claims the incense
sticks are watching her. She refuses to dress.
Her daughter Christine returns to sleep in her old room. Christine's
friend Tanja moves into the guestroom. One of Christine's paintings
hangs on the wall. Christine hates to paint, and it shows. The
painting looks like bloody hands beating against a coffin's lid from
Glass in one fist, bottle of pills in the other,
Christine marches to her mother's room. Her skirt clings to her wide
"Got something for you, mother," she says, brandishing
the glass. She hides the pills behind her back.
Rita blinks. Her robe has fallen to the floor. Tanja
stands at the foot of the bed. She doesn’t mind Rita's nudity. The
large nipples look like cookies to her, warm and harmless. But
Christine blushes and covers her up. "Really," she whispers. "You're
not that gorgeous anymore."
Rita sits up, gazing at the glass. "I'm thirsty," she
says. "Good child."
Christine nods. She opens the bottle and shakes three
pills onto her palm. In the dim room they look like white arrowheads.
"Say ah," Christine says.
Christine puts a pill onto her mother's tongue and hands
her the glass. Rita drinks and swallows.
Glass, drink, swallow.
"I already said it twice."
"Say it again. Say ah."
Christine pushes her palm with the last pill against
Rita's mouth and grabs her neck with her other. She pushes back
Rita's face. Rita's cheeks redden.
Tanja's legs twitch. "Stop it," she whispers.
Rita gags. Still pressing her hand against Rita's mouth,
Christine reaches for the water and, in one fast motion, replaces
hand with glass. Rita swallows, gasps, as if coming up for air. Her
hair spreads over her breasts. She looks at her daughter, eyes wide,
and hugs the blanket against her chest.
"What did you give me?"
Christine closes the bottle. "Nevermind."
Rita scrunches up her face and pounces the mattress.
"What did you give me?"
Christine tugs the sheet between mattress and bedstand.
She smiles. Her face has never been flatter. "Something good." She
shoves the pill bottle into the front pocket of her shirt and claps
her hands together, swishing them past each other as if shaking off
the grime of a job well done. "We'll do this every day now. Fun."
She rams her fists into her hips. She will not leave. Through pills
and puke and dirty sheets, enemas and the final crack of both of
their skulls she will not leave. Her life, future, and family drain
from her and she becomes a nurse with thick arms and iron breasts.
Christine looks at Tanja. "You'll help me here or what?"
Tanja clutches the metal foot piece of Rita's bed.
Finger by finger, she lets go. Her fingerprints fade from the metal.
She tiptoes backwards until her feet warm up in the sunlit square
thrown through the window, and she knows she is halfway out of the
room. She exhales and turns around.
Tanja crouches on the dark stage. She can't see the audience. When
she first started dancing she tried to see their faces and sense
their reaction, but not anymore. She spreads her fingers on a layer
of talcum. She inhales. The music rises inside her.
Tanja rises onto her tiptoes and spins. Her muscles firm. She is a
braid flapping between the tanned shoulders of a running girl, a whip
burning across a monster's spine, an uncoiling piece of rope at the
The small crowd applauds. She accepts a bouquet of
flowers. They smell as sharp as celery juice on the powdered stage.
She hopes Christine is peeling oranges somewhere, a soft toddler
clinging to her knees. Her gut, hollowed out from nursing her mother,
will fill again with cashew butter and morning kisses.