At the end of tsunami season, you’re back home in bed, inland. The doorbell rings. You wander downstairs—dizzy, water-drunk—and open the door. The sun hits your face.
It’s the postman. His outstretched hands hold a package. It’s addressed to the old woman who lived in the house before you. The sun’s heat on your cheek. The old woman’s rosebushes are overgrown, brushing against the roof; they make a scratching sound in the wind. Hold on, you say to the postman.
You run upstairs. Your girlfriend is asleep. You put your fallen books back on the bookshelf, but they don’t look quite right, so you put up another bookshelf. You gather your shells from the coast, put them in a jar, touch your cheek.
You run back downstairs—open to anything handed to you now—
but it’s gone. The door is ajar. The package, the postman, the sun.
You walk down the darkening sidewalk. A neighborhood cat walks beside you.
Your dad is still at the beach. I dug a tunnel to China, he says in a text message.
Everyone cheered me on. Are they cheering you on in hell? He sends you a video of the ocean. Look at what you're missing. So relaxing, he says. Is there an ocean in hell? You throw your phone in your neighbor’s trashcan. You feel sorry for the other trash.
Across the street a man sits on a bike, flag attached to the back. He wears a neon safety vest and helmet—it’s hard to see his eyes. She died, the old woman who used to own your house, he says. Her children came, but they left her cats. That means Bob is yours, he says, motioning to the orange tabby at your feet. All the cats are yours. You hear the trashcan ringing. You go and dig out your phone and place it to your ear. You hear your mom’s voice; it sounds like roses.
Your girlfriend wakes up when you get back to the house. She asks where you were and you say, the multiverse. She pulls you into bed. She smells like mangoes. She throws the sheets over your heads and they parachute down.
I AM NO MOTHER
It could be remembered as the year I killed the ivy: those twisting, thin vines wrapped around the trellis. In a fit of aesthetics I turned them into brown, shriveled things. I put down my tools. I sat inside, avoided the windows, covered my eyes with my palms when nearing the garden, when the sun led me outside.
I think it was a normal Valentine’s Day. Brunch with my mom, sister, brother-in-law, nephew, girlfriend. A trip to the art museum with my mom sitting down and sitting down again. An appointment with my mom’s radiation oncologist. Us circled around the screen, watching brain lesions in 3D. My girlfriend scooting closer to me. My nephew with his hand on his hip, playing a videogame.
Melissa L Amstutz is a former Nebraskan, current Oregonian, who recieved her MFA from NYU. She plays instruments and sings in the band Hers.