Grease travels halfway down, she picks flakes from the root. The girl sits on the closed toilet with her head tilted to the side. Uneven strands pulled taut into the iron against her scalp by her mother. The walls are beige enough to be anywhere. He hangs around the doorway.
Always makes me think of the movie where the girl gets killed by the hot curling iron shoved inside her vagina. Did we watch that with her?
Muddled blues on the eyelid. Half her head in ringlets. Pale sweating skin, baby pink cheeks, bright red lips like the smallest matryoshka doll.
Faint fry of oiled hair on metal.
Shifting arms to sides. Her little face contorts.
I told you to hold still.
The girl whimpers, pushing on her mother’s stomach with her palms.
You are hurting me. You are out of control. I can’t deal with you.
If you can’t fucking sit for two minutes you can do it yourself.
Mother walks out and slams the door hard enough to vibrate the foundation.
She presses the iron against the side of her chin and waits.
The car is cold. It smells of white bags filled with old hash browns, permeated by sickness. Lights blend together in the unfocused visual hum of an iPad flashing primary colors in repetitive haze. She thinks of nothing.
Oiled face, small stains on long sleeve v-neck. Extended stomach above low rise bell-bottoms, peeking with movement. Hidden in her hand: a small bobby pin with the rounded ends chewed off. She cradles the sharp edge against the center of her palm.
Don’t you want to go to heaven like Mommy and Daddy?
The outside feels like walking in bare skin. People look at her. She can tell by the sound of her mother’s footsteps, breaking in rhythm to follow eyelines.
It’s not you. They stare at everyone here.
There’s no difference between a pretty girl and an ugly one.
White fluorescent tile and cheap disinfectant, legs swing from the single anachronistic wooden chair in the renovated waiting room. Remaining fasteners for a CRT that isn’t there anymore. She plays a themed puzzle game on her tablet, eyeless. Heated tension in chest without WiFi.
They visit the corporate office on the third floor of Neiman Marcus at Broadway Square twice per week. Her mother speaks to her friend, another woman with her daughter. Too young to talk to.
I don’t get why he only does it on my stomach and never inside me.
Mind frames a match cut.
have to go to the bathroom
You just went five minutes ago. Laurel will be out soon, wait until it’s over.
The mother turns back to her conversation. She tugs on her mother’s shirt with her mouth, soaked cotton clenched between teeth.
have to go NOW
Can’t you just be patient for once?
Now now now now now
It ends the same. Hands gripped to ankles, burn of skin and bone grinding into laminate. Hair tangles, drags below back. Laurel and Mother above like a cop’s light. Shields eyes with arms. Screams. Tears.
Center: stand even, hands on hips.
Forward: right foot ahead, arms behind back.
Left: left foot extended, arms crossed.
Right: right foot extended, arm on left hip.
Back: crossed legs, arms at sides.
Swollen cheeks in the meeting room. Five steps in gaff tape on the floor. The motions are the same, akin to ballet positions in memorization but not as fundamental. It’s about repetition.
She wears a yellow floral dress. Tags hidden in crevices, standing in front of a grey backdrop. The mother sits outside of the frame, beside Laurel.
I don’t like the way the children look in these. You understand the meaning. You’re photographing pigeons, not the deep focus. Staged out of proportion.
I wish I knew enough to tell you everything you need to know.
I’ll try to take a better set this time.
The Photographer crouches under light buzz, borrowed from the portrait studio floors below. Setup identical, inch by inch. Steps tracked, Laurel yells instruction. Target wide through scope.
The girl is still. He matches eyes.
Wide, white. Overexposed.
have to go
He takes the shot.
We have a few minutes left,
is someone able to take her real quick?
Legs rise, hard slow stride. The Mother laughs like a joke.
She slaps her little stupid face.
You’re making a fucking scene in front of everyone, stop embarrassing us.
drip down leg
She floats outside the room and The Photographer shadows.
Single stall. fake wooden floor, Indented metal drain.
Even level legs contract around.
He shows his phone
hand on hair,
blue rag from coat
he unfolds an ice cube
fits in her mouth. fingers warm, salted
presses wet thumb against tender
yellow concealer crusted iron print
cloth to face
life is never kind to small and needy.
your mind is just like mine.
an average mewling mouth.
they don’t know that they love you.
come to my arms,
i’ll make you special
together, sleep into
the white and sightless