The Art of Memory
I gave you your first haircut when you were one because the locks kept falling over your eyes and making you blink. And when you peed on yourself, I didn’t get mad like the others. I liked it because I could smell you and how careless you were.
I hated when you got sick, but I secretly liked it too. When your nose ran yellow, you let me take care of you. You’d say, “Amma,” and burp. And then when I tried to hold you and rock you to sleep, you’d pretend to slap me so that I would feign pain, and you could comfort me instead.
When I take a shower now, and the water runs down, I can sometimes hear you crying in the drain. But you sound like a cat. You are purring. And when I watch other children, all I can see are their skeletons, their tiny skulls, their plastic spines.
I am pregnant, but you know that. Is this the last time I will try to forget you? I know that it is you who gives me heartburn.
At dusk, when cars swerve to avoid hitting each other, I hope that somewhere else, a child will die too.
Annam Manthiram lives in New Mexico with her husband and son. Her work has appeared in Cream City Review, PANK, Chicago Quarterly Review, Grey Sparrow Journal, and others. She has written two novels and Dysfunction, a collection of short stories. Her work has been nominated for the PEN/O’Henry Prize and Best American Short Stories.