Creative Nonfiction: This Almost Had a Title But Then by Emily James

Mommy like a Cutco knife through a cantaloupe. Mommy and her beady eyes ready to unspool the thoughts that are to come. Mommy because she’s thirsty Mommy because her armpit itches Mommy because her milk cup leaked Mommy because she has a story to tell about a YouTube video where another mommy had pink hair and a flamingo pool float. Mommy like it’s a song, the ice cream truck bells repeating, sweet, expensive, a dripping sprinkled mess. Mommy where I can’t find the space to hear any of the words that are buried in my mind. There was a sentence and it began and then Mommy like it’s a lasso and how dare I try to float away. There was an image of a sunflower that dipped and dropped and splattered and it stands for so many things like love and beauty and the weight of expectations but then Mommy like it’s a question about the end of the world or the belly of a bear. Mommy slapping me back from a story I believed I would write, an idea that drifted around and couldn’t land. Mommy that makes me groan at her perfect small existence that I tried for nights and years to plant and grow, to birth and hold. Mommy like it’s an insult. A distraction keeping me from walking towards the finish line, towards all those other authors with collections and fancy white-backed head shots and words that grab you by the hem of your shirt and hold you until the last line, let you go, watch you fall. The echo of silence. The crash. Mommy like it’s a curse. Mommy like it’s the cure. Have you ever Mommy tried to Mommy think Mommy of anything Mommy that transcended the immediate Mommy to dive deep into that silence where thoughts can spin themselves off Bippity Boppity Boo into the beautiful blue dress they had meant to be, the dreams they run towards but Mommy Mommy Mommy and where do all the words go that were almost born? Do they spin off and vanish, or are they clamped and ground to dust? They are fucking gone, and I hold her and wave goodbye to all those sentences that would have become stories that would have become pictures that popped off the page and pricked you, I let them go, because this bowl of crackers, Mommy, could you eat over the bowl? And even though it feels like there is so much more I’m missing between each Mommy Mommy Mommy we both know that any less than this would have me clipped at the throat to drop and smudge and die, so I choose the girl instead of the words again and again and again, this tiny mouth circled like a coin.

Emily James is a teacher and writer in NYC. She is the submissions editor at Pidgeonholes and the CNF Editor at Porcupine lit. She’s the winner of the 2020 Baltimore Review CNF contest, a Smokelong Flash 2020 Finalist, and the winner of the 2019 Bechtel Prize. Her work can be found in Guernica, River Teeth, The Atticus Review, Jellyfish Review, and elsewhere.

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