by Allison Grace Myers
From the beginning, you created my heaviness and my easiness. Before you, my daughter (never known, never named, at least not by me), my shape was slippery, a cross too light to bear, an empty vol-au-vent—that flaky buttery pastry filled with vegetable or meat or maybe fish, on the menu at the French bistro with the white tablecloths where I worked as a waitress for those three delirious months, back when I was future-numb, blind to the heaviness you would bring. I was the fly in the soft-silk puree. I was the lizard fish among the living.
It was there, my daughter (almost erased, always bourn), there I was taught to steam-press my apron, taught to smile without showing the sparks of my lizard-fish teeth. I was taught to pronounce coq-a-vin and gougère and, yes, vol-au-vent—rolling my drug-dry mouth over the words, slow and sticky like prying a spider-web off the skin.
And there among the flickering candles, I met him—he with the crooked teeth and wonder-stripped eyes. A busboy. (How demeaning. Bus-man?) And yet, conjuring now his face, rolling away the stone, yes, he was a boy. An addict, just like me. We were lizard fish, plural, together, splashing and thrashing among the living. But he was also a prince, mind you—though I admit, I did not know him well.
He rolled me—first like dough, which must be thinned and pressed and kneaded, needed, for it to rise and be filled—then later, away, like a stone. He collected in his steam-pressed apron all the trinkets of my recklessness, the debris discarded in my wake as I slipped from homes to new homes to no homes and back. He unearthed me, resurrected.
Well, not me, not exactly—not yet—but you.
No, my daughter, if you are wondering (do you tilt sometimes your head in wonder, as he did?) the botanist prince did not know of his creation. He did not know of that replica of goodness you formed inside me, teaching me how to hold the heaviness and the uneasiness, even as I let you go.
You—you!—named beautifully, I am sure, by someone, you that I have known only through the easing of my heaviness (which you yourself created, christened, cratered away), you that formed the solid, almost-saved shape of me: I imagine you with his hair, the color of a cornfield at sunset, and with straighter teeth than his, but not perfectly straight, I hope.
Your vol-au-vent life, I imagine and believe, is filled to the rim, with sparks that shock and electrify your delighted tongue. The idols you bow to must, I pray, be solid and savory and whole, not flimsy-flickering like mine.
And yet—this is selfishness speaking, maybe, the same selfish love that kept you a secret even before he left, spider-webbing you within me for as long as I could possibly manage, simply because I had never before had a secret that was beautiful, a secret that was good—I also hope you can imagine what it is like to bear such a heavy easiness: to be a thrashing lizard fish among the living, delirious and defamed, empty arms aching for some sweet burden to carry, so that you can (do you ever?) imagine me.
Allison Grace Myers received her MFA from Texas State University, where she held the 2014 – 2017 Rose Fellowship. She received notable mention in 2017 Best American Essays, and her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in literary magazines including Crazyhorse, Texas Review, Gulf Coast, The Rumpus, and Image. She lives in Houston, TX and is working on her first novel.