I do not listen: I am spinning.
My mother talks to my brother, my brother leans upon her shoulder. He splays himself upon her as if she were a kind of talking chaise lounge. He recites the states he learned in school today—half of them, at least. He stops at South Carolina, stymied. My mother listens to his every word.
I do not listen; I am spinning.
Earlier that day, I tried to tell my mother about the blue bird’s nest outside the balcony window. She was exercising upstairs, and not listening. But there—I saw the mother blue bird feed her little baby chicks, just hatched from the nest. Although the spring sunshine was warm, they looked so thin and cold in the wind that swirls around our porch. Their mother, having fed them some small worm she discovered among the sparse cracks of soil amid the endless sea of dirty cement, now settles down on top of them, to shelter them and comfort them. She looks so peaceful, fluffing her feathers to provide a living blanket for her young. I told all this to my mother, but she couldn’t hear over the whir-whir of her stationary bike.
I can’t hear you, love; I’m spinning.
My mother looks at my brother as if he’s her baby bird. She runs her hair through his soft curls, she asks him about his day at school, and wonders how he survived without her in the jungle of children. He is comfortable here, with my mother. He will never leave, I think. Because my mother has done nothing, ever, but cultivate her body and the attention of men, including my slip of a brother. She lives, I realize, for the feel of men lounging on her body; even the fruit of her loins. She is praising him for remembering all the states that come before South Carolina, as he drapes his arm around her.
I do not listen; I am spinning.
My mother has build a world where my brother is at home; he is the first-born, favored, and I am the younger, an after-thought. My mother has created a nest for one: my brother. And he will never leave. He will be nourished on the worms she feeds him, until he finds another woman to feed his endless appetite for worms. But he will never leave The Nest.
But I, I am spinning off into the world.
I am already looking outwards: outwards from this domestic web, into the world of strangers on the subway car. There is a woman with honey curls, pounding KFC with all the delicacy of a bulldozer. There are two Italian men with excellent suits, discussing art and leisure with one another. There is a woman wearing sunglasses, even in this dark underground tunnel. I wonder if she is hiding from someone, or if she wants to hide herself from all of us. She gazes around the car with impunity; and no one knows where her eyes are looking.
I decide I do not want to be like her: I want everyone to see where I am looking, to feel my gaze, and know that I see them. I want the world to feel that I see each single part of it. It ought to know; it ought to know that I can see it. And I will careen and crash into each part of it; and the world will ache in its bones from our collision. My impact will be a crater: a permanent scar upon the earth’s pockmarked face.
My mother and my brother’s conversation pauses, she turns her head slightly to me and my blue skirt, whirling all around me like an inverted lotus, and says without really seeing me: Mackenzie, stop that and stand up straight.
I do not listen. I am spinning.