Second Place, Autumn 2021
Picture by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
As I look at My Son use your imagination my smile is held up by toothpicks. My smile feels like the Joker’s. I’m supposed to use specific language to tell him about his diagnosis, but I can’t make eye contact with him so I look at his jacket. The jacket is slick, impossibly dark use your like an oil spill, like someone peeled off the outer layer of the human eyeball. If My Son moves abruptly, the jacket squeaks use like a knife on a shoddy cutting board.
I am seven years old. I ask why people lie. Doctor says it’s about seeing the world in figurative ways. It’s about metaphors. What are metaphors? I ask. She holds up a hand mirror, says, smile with your teeth. I say my teeth can’t smile. She says, tell me something about your smile, Lily. I say your smile should be spelled y-o-o-r, s-m-y-u-h-l. She says, no, something about the way your smile looks. Use your imagination! I say my smile doesn’t look. My eyes look. She says no, like this: My smile is…wide as an ocean! Pretty as a rainbow!
Children like you don’t get metaphors, she says. Where do you get them? I ask. Are there metafives? I ask. Doctor laughs. This laugh is the first lie I’ve heard that is not in words.
At home I write in my lined notebook: whyde az an oshen, pritee az a raynbo. My Mother makes me fix it. She doesn’t understand that spelling is also a lie. Otherwise it would be ly.
Eye contact feels like use your imagination falling into a black hole use your being flambéed alive use mace.
If peepul rote it “I contact” insted uhv “eye contact”, then maybe thay wood understand.
I am ten years old. Teacher says, if you know the answer, raise your hand. He looks over the class even though my hand is raised, every time. He says, come on! Nobody? Maybe he thinks my name is Nobody. Afterwards he says Lily, it goes without saying that you give others a chance. Stop thinking of you.
I write in my notebook: Iff sum thingz go without saying, how do u no whut thay r? Then I fix it, leave how do no whut thay r because Teacher said no more u.
New Doctor says there’s nothing to fix. She says, I don’t think you are Nobody.
My Son looks up from his encyclopedia. I sit down on his bed and show him my notebook. I say I have something to talk to you about, My Son, about My Li(f)e, only I’m not sure what language to use. I’m going to yewz my own, and u tel me iff u understand. My Sun klozez hiz ensyklopeedeeuh. I ly down on hiz bed and he joynz me, lyez down too and holdz my hand, wich iz rare, hiz hand iz warm use your imagination like lyve flame and we ly, ly, ly.