Greta Wilensky

When we go to visit Mama, we don’t acknowledge the tooth loss. Or the bloodied tissues in the wastebasket. Or the lemons and mangoes, rotting on the floor of the kitchen sink. Mama kisses us with lips that are wine-colored and we taste her moonshine breath and it burns the back of our throats. We are her three daughters. That is to say, all three of us: hers. We are not ourselves when we are in this house. We are the burn holes in the curtains and the teeth of the piano that Mama never plays anymore. In this house that birthed us, we remember. Our small hands, skin soft like a kitten’s belly. Baby teeth white as milk, three sleeping girls behind a door with no lock, easy prey. We try to forget; it is too heavy. We sit in the kitchen and drink sweet tea out of chipped glass jars. We dust the floors. Organize the closets: winter coats, ball gowns, nooses made from tinsel. Mama doesn’t throw things away. This house is a museum. We look at the photos on the fridge, frayed at the edges and yellowed with age. I cannot recognize anyone within them. Mama, skinny and smiling, all her teeth still in her mouth. Me and the other girls as babies and our brothers, running around on matchstick legs, burning up beneath the weight of summer heat. Our brothers, who live as ghosts between us. They do not live here. They live everywhere else—driving trucks on iced-over roads, sleeping in the beds of strangers, wearing grooves into barstools in faraway cities—but not here. Our brothers who couldn’t bear the weight of remembering. Who cast off this home and everything inside of it. Who buried us in their pasts. Who left in the dark of night, when we barely knew to ask why. We ask ourselves where they are going but know it’s nowhere good. How could it be? We are the same children, born of broken-down pickup trucks and Mama’s love for angry men. Born of poverty and fist-sized holes in the plaster. We are dirty children, born of the mud and the dust, the no doctors and no dentists and nobody, just us. Children of rotten teeth and unwashed clothes, sent home sick, ignored in the back of the room. Silent children. Children standing in the way of a woman in her methamphetamine frenzy. Children swallowed whole by Mama and the vices we don’t talk about. Children born from her high. I look at Mama and this prison she has built. At the streaks of dried brown water on the kitchen floor. The dead wasps on the windowsill. At my hands and their cracked pink skin and wonder if I will ever really get away from here. Mama smiles at us with her black mouth of no-teeth, slides the bolt over the front door. My, my, she says. What beautiful women you have become.




Greta Wilensky is a writer from Lowell, MA. She was the 2015 runner-up in prose for the Winter Tangerine Review Prizes. Her work has been published in the Best Teen Writing Anthology of 2015, and is forthcoming in the Winter Tangerine Review, Souvenir Lit Journal, and Alexandria Quarterly. She was a 2015 YoungArts national winner for short story, and her work has been featured in MoMA PS1 in New York City and in the Department of Education building in Washington, D.