I lean into the warm water, feeling it fill my ears with a soft whoompf, the tip of my nose and lips just breaking the surface. Slow, measured breaths. Quiet breaths. The ceiling shimmers and flexes as I open my eyes, the water stings for a second. I like the pain. I’ve always liked it. Razors with their warm shiny edges, beautiful wet blades. It connects me to a body I don’t quite own.

The light flickers, buzzes, blacks out, wavers back to life. The cold fluorescent echoing in shadows.

Warm waves flood my scalp as Mama’s fingers ripple through my hair. Hands move mechanically, massaging my head. I go limp.

Shall I braid it?

I slide up, nuzzling my neck into the edge of the porcelain tub. I nod. I’ve missed my braid. Wiggling my fingers, I check the mobility in my left hand. A little better.

Good girl.

She leans over me. The light pops zzzaaap, black splatters her face.

“Sing?” I mumble.

Her hands disappear for a second. I feel her shift behind me and then lean closer.

Rock-a-bye, baby

fingers trace the red welted scars on my wrist. My blood burns. An itch only a razor can scratch.

on a treetop

fingers press into the flesh, digging, searching.

when the wind blows

Zzzzaaaaazzzaaaap a cough of darkness.

the cradle will rock

Something is shifting, changing. Her arms elongate, thinning, a yellow foot hooks over the edge of the tub.

The door handle rattles. “Ava? You in there?”

Patrick? What’s he doing here? His flight gets back tomorrow.

Zzzzzaaaazzzzzz a chaotic symphony of shadows dance gleefully along the walls.

Mama perches on the edge of the tub, all elbows, knees, and bony edges, like she swallowed a bag of hammers. Emaciated skin sucked around jagged ribs.

I wonder why he doesn’t come in. I don’t remember locking the door.

when the bough breaks

Her eyes are gone. Just a white sloping emptiness distending from straggling ropes of hair down to a pocked nose. The cheeks pull into something resembling a grin. Part of her bottom jaw is gone.

“Ava, who are you talking to? Who’s in there?!” The rugged mahogany groans as he throws a shoulder into it. “OPEN THE DOOR! AVA!”

Mama turns and scuttles up the wall, her wet, hacking voice splattering around me.

the cradle will fall

I can’t pull my eyes away, fascinated by the ripples of her distended spine protruding through her back. Bony shoulder blades squirm and jerk.

ZZZZZZZZAAAAAAAAAAAA POP the light goes out leaving me with one last glimpse of her body splayed across the ceiling above me, small but impossibly large, her head rotating, black hair falling around a sightless face.

and down will come baby





I reach up in the darkness, “MAMA! DON’T LEAVE ME AGAIN! DON’T LEAVE ME!”

cradle and all.

CRAAAAACKKK! The door splinters open, a beam of light catching Mama’s form as she launches herself toward me, all disjointed arms, knobby legs, hooked fingers.


And then I am awash in fire and blackness and rushing water. Patrick diving, reaching, but he’s late. He’s too late.

Mama takes me.

Down, down into wet, shiny nothingness.

Don’t Tell Me – a rant


Don’t tell me you understand


you’ve never seen the role that you were born for handed off to someone else who doesn’t have a clue.

you’ve never sat at your table at night looking at your bank account trying to figure out how you’ll buy food.

you’ve never huddled in your room fantasizing about those warm, bright blades, just wanting to cut, just once, so you could feel something, anything.

you’ve never woken up crushed by a murky depression that shadows everything with a pall, choking your lungs.

you’ve never stared at yourself, while skin and bones stared back, and the mirror whispered “it’s still not enough.”

you’ve never wept in a car outside a diner late at night watching those tail lights pulling away while you scream “why” and punch the wheel. over and over and over.

you’ve never sat in the office looking at an x-ray, floating, while the doctor says he’ll give you a minute, a minute to embrace the timer he just started on the balance of your life.

you’ve never stood in the shower and watched chunks of matted hair fall into the drain.

you’ve never trembled in the NICU watching your child, small enough to sit in the palm of your hand, wheeze, whimper, and you just pray, “oh God oh God oh God.”

you’ve never stood helplessly watching the accident that you’re powerless to stop.

you’ve never hated yourself for not being there when it happened.

you’ve never sat on the edge of the hospital bed promising that “no, it won’t hurt” when you have no idea and you just pray that maybe, just maybe you’re right.

you’ve never listened to the death rattle going on and on and on for so much longer than you could ever have believed possible.

you’ve never watched the monitor go silent.

you’ve never stood over a grave that shouldn’t have been filled, not yet, smelling the wet dirt, knowing it’s true, knowing this has happened.

So don’t tell me.


*author’s note: this is not autobiographical. some elements came from my own life, some from friends, and some from stories that have been shared with me