Adult Daughters of Hybrid Murderesses
We’re all ashamed of our mothers in this place. Mine’s the one chomping on fresh crickets, which isn’t nearly as bad as the things she did when I was in middle school, like tearing the wings off Lauren Fontaine’s yellow swallowtail costume at the science fair. I was dressed as a Komodo dragon that day, thank God, and so I sank further into my papier-mâché head and tried to disappear. I got my wish: Mom took me home, piled our stuff in her beater car, and drove off to yet another desert town.
If you had told me then how much worse it would get, I would have sacrificed my Komodo-self to the asphalt hell of the highway.
Mom, all leather skin and cornrowed white hair, has lost her power. She is never without her oxygen tank, always slumped in her wheelchair. She chain-smokes and refuses to eat anything but insects. Nobody is afraid of her now. Her claws lie limp in her lap.
Mom, all leather skin and cornrowed white hair, has lost her power.
Nadia visits the State Hospital for Hybrid Murderesses on Wednesdays, like me. Her mom used to be able to turn men to stone, but they shut that down with a simple skin graft. She’s still mobile but prefers to stay in her room, choking on her outrage.
Over bitter coffee Nadia and I enjoy our strange sisterhood. “Guess what I read,” she says. “You can pass on trauma in your DNA. Think about it, Rachel.”
“I have. But my DNA stops here. What are you worried about? You’re not thinking of having kids, are you, Nadia?”
She spits out the coffee without answering me.
We both think it but don’t say it: It’s hard for girls like us to bond with others. We are statistically unlikely to find partners. I don’t care. They can keep their DNA research. I want my youth back. I want my boyfriend back.
In high school I was so poor I wore the same dress every day, a delicate lace number that turned into a miniskirt the taller I grew. My grades were perfect. I was in student government. Back then I believed a stellar performance could somehow transport me out of my mother’s world. But, like Nadia said, they’re always learning more fun facts about that pesky DNA.
Nadia and I leave before visiting hours are over and head to a nearby dive that serves margaritas. Sometimes I wish we lived closer to each other since there are so few people like us in the world, but I know how that would go. It doesn’t take much alcohol to get us talking about the unspeakable, and that, contrary to popular opinion, does not set you free. It is a one-way express ticket to darkness. I hate what I am made of but it’s not my fault.
“Actually,” Nadia says halfway into the first pitcher, “I’m still thinking about the victims.”
“Our mothers caused the trauma those people are now passing on to their kids. It’s so unfair.”
“If they even survived. I know my mother’s . . . prey didn’t.”
“Well, I can’t say the same. Some of my mom’s victims are still alive. Think about it.”
“I don’t want to think about it, Nadia.”
They can keep their DNA research. I want my youth back. I want my boyfriend back.
I’m worried she has started to drown in something more than liquor, but then she lights up. “Hey, Rachel, look over there.”
I know who she sees: a redhead, the daughter of this woman who is mostly snail. We never talk to her. I didn’t even know she came to this bar. “No! Do not call her over here. No way.”
“Hell no. Of course not.”
We keep drinking until Nadia breaks the silence, the unspoken vow not to disrespect others, and says, “What the hell? What was the snail-woman’s MO? Come on now. Think about it, Rachel: what did she do to her victims?”
“I don’t know,” I say, copying my mother’s sassy twang, “but it must have been real slow.”
We lose it. Tequila burns our noses. We laugh so hard the waitress circles back to check on us. This is a rough honkytonk but they won’t indulge certain behaviors. If we’re already ripped, they want us out of here. I wave the girl away and pinch my wrist to stop the laughter.
“Did she slime them to death?” Nadia whispers. “What do snails do, anyway? Christ.”
“I don’t know. Anyhow, it’s not right to laugh at the suffering of others. That kind of behavior leads to sadism and criminality. Remember?”
“I remember, Doctor.”
We kill our giggles and keep drinking. It is nice to have a laugh. For so many years we weren’t allowed any lightness. We were supposed to apologize for living, as if we were at fault.
It is nice to have a laugh. For so many years we weren’t allowed any lightness
Why did nobody see me as a victim? Spike was my boyfriend, after all. I lost someone, too, and to my own mother! But Spike’s mom didn’t see it that way. She wanted everyone to believe I had lured Spike to our apartment so that the lizard matriarch could kill him.
Spike and I only had sex once. He was my first.
I don’t have lizard skin on my body, not anywhere. No claws. I have surrendered my nakedness to every kind of search, as the record will state. I am not my mother.
I don’t know how long I will sit here, or if I will order another pitcher. I have taken the detour to my ugly past, the worst direction for the disenfranchised.
I ran away after Spike’s murder, walked out to the highway and hopped into the first truck that would take me. The driver ran his hand straight up my thigh to my crotch. Murderous rage flooded my body, and I knew I was my mother’s daughter. I understood her. The distance between us disappeared.
“What’s wrong, Rachel?” Nadia asks.
“Nothing.” I shrug off my DNA and lean in to kiss her.