My mother raised us on all she knew: proud, empty ribcages, humble tongues. She folded small, damp bills under her mattress and licked envelopes in the night, then waded with us into the winter with rainboots and plastic sand buckets, collected snow, mixed it with milk and sugar to make ice cream.
This was the way of it: summer, climbing over the neighbor’s fence, past the tall grass, to the abandoned farm where we ate ourselves silly and red with wild raspberries. Buttered saltine crackers, golden eggs of flavor and dehydrated noodles, meat fried over white toast on the stove. Life was a rationing, and we were obedient, hungry soldiers.
When there was chocolate, we melted it, took turns opening to the communal glass. Drink slow she pressed, tilting our chins back with her pointer finger: the most violent loving act.
The olive oil, drained from the pan into a cup in the cupboard, the crusts of bread, stale, hard, simmered into soup. Ice chips for colds. Half an onion for fever. There was always a way to work out the knots. To keep our lips wet.
She was watering the ground, growing only a puddle, soaking our socks as we leapt back and forth over it to lick our pinkie fingers and dip them into the brown paper bag of sugar on the countertop before she tucked it away.
Today I am naked in my kitchen devouring spoonful after spoonful of honey, the expensive kind, grating cheese against steel, throwing the whole cookbook away, and ordering in—greasily—warm boxes and men for delivery.
Sometimes when I’m full, I like to read her old letters where I can still smell her: clementines and bleach, two of the most expensive things she could think of—cleanliness and citrus.
We are not the same: mother and this ungrateful, gulping thing called daughter. ‘Naive,’ she would say, ‘the last of us fading away in a food coma’. And maybe this is extinction—by luxurious nonsense, by disobedience, by evolution.
Isabella Barricklow is a writer and English teacher living in Madrid, Spain. She studied English, child development, and creative writing at Central Michigan University. Her work appears in Dunes Review, Third Wednesday Magazine, on Poets.org, and is upcoming in Cimarron Review and Crab Fat Magazine. Find her on Instagram: @isabellabarricklow, on Twitter: @BellaRose221, or visit her website: Isabellabarricklow.weebly.com.