– Nonfiction by Cynthia Blakeley –
You don’t know why you’re in the closet again, but you do know the vacuum cleaner is in a damn inconvenient place. The square button where the hose joins the wand digs into your back, but your mother’s fake fur caresses your cheek, so it’s not all bad. You bang against the latched door, but it could be a while before anyone finds you, because the closet is in the room your dad added to the side of the house and no one just passes by unless they have to. The scent of mothballs stings your nose, and you wonder if it’s as bad for your brain as the bag laced with cement glue you sniffed in the garden with your cousin, paper bellows flexing and collapsing as your head spun. The closet’s shadows make you drowsy so you pin dreamlike fragments to wire hangers until your mother finishes the dishes or her sewing project and you hear a kindly footfall. This time when you pound wood, the latch unclicks and light floods the door frame. It dazes you a bit, the light, is even more disorienting than the mothballs, but soon instead of lightheadedness you feel a grounding rage rise from your stomach and swash into your shoulders, your elbows, your wrists, your fingers, your fingernails, and you want to scratch someone, hard enough to draw blood, and you do. But it’s not the brother who tossed you into the closet. It’s your sister, your cousin, someone more your size, someone who will cry so you don’t have to.
Decades later, your mother—on one of the rare occasions she tells a story about your childhood—casually remarks, “you never liked to be captured.” You think of the closet, of the ropes binding you to the locust tree as your brother tipped a wiggling snake down your shirt, of your sisters and cousins circling with nail clippers, and then you think of how hard you fought against falling in love, how marrying the kindest man you’d ever met still felt like a caging, only this time it was you who turned the key. And you realize you’ve become used to love’s captivity, that the corners cutting into you lie right beside the silky bits comforting you and it doesn’t take mothballs or glue to feel the swirl in your brain, to see the stars, even if just for a second.
About the Author – Cynthia Blakeley
Cynthia Blakeley is an instructor in Emory University’s Institute for the Liberal Arts and works as a freelance editor and writer. She teaches courses on memory and memoir, interdisciplinary studies, and dream theories. She grew up in Wellfleet, MA, and now lives and gardens in Atlanta, GA.
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