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Mother Made Me Think Escalators

Lauren Krouse



John says it’s a long way out, and

has he made it out? As far as I know,

he doesn’t take meds anymore and

for that, I feel like a failure. He said,

“You don’t need them, nobody needs

them,” and I made the mistake of

replying, “They work for me.”

And the image of him in my head

will always be a chameleon burning

in the oven of our childhood home in

Tennessee, note stuck in the door

Mom wouldn’t let me read. Scent of

fresh-baked cookies candle mingling

with charred color-drained skin, him, hurrying away

down the hill, rusted-over bike he

hardly ever touched before, never again,

and I like to imagine it was red, but I can’t

remember and I don’t think it was;

it was probably blue.

Mother made me think escalators 

would suck up my body

by a tattered shoelace, that I could disappear

into a Jacuzzi jet and into death.

She made me believe candy was

poisoned, beggars were liars, and

if I didn’t wear a seatbelt, well, then somebody

would be obliged to hit me and kill me and

make cheek meet window meet sky and tree.

Always, death. Because each mole could be

cancer; cancer, the wall you can’t jump over

or maneuver around any way. End game.

I became convinced cancer was hiding

inside me, just waiting, selfish and silent.

Loving him, I learned, would leave me alone

when I got sick and he saw it, the black ink

in my eyes, invading my veins, thinning my skin.

So I took the creaking stairs, I remembered to sit up straight,

I ate little, I helped the poor, the truly poor, I was a seatbelt-wearer

and a hypochondriac. I waited for the cancer. I held back from the one

I loved for a year long just to sleep, fuck around all my college days

because I was tired of waiting, Mom. (I won’t tell

Mom) Not everybody meets their husband in middle school.

I stood tiny in the city and I got asthma and allergies from the

cigarette smoke of other English majors who rolled their own

and pretended to like the grandmotherly smell of incense.

I hadn’t enough friends to worry of the word reputation, so I

spoke the truth and lost some, and I was a bit of a whore

but found happiness I hadn’t felt since before escalators.

Happiness, in a bottle of red wine passed around a hotel room.

Mom went to counselors and she ate odd herbs (ones I would’ve took

if it wasn’t for birth control) and she cried and cried and I just wish

we’d never been so damn afraid to climb on, to know we were too alive

for death, to not crash through the windshield, to never see,

oh, the sight of the shimmering, the tiny, thousands of glass-shard stars.

Lauren Krouse works as a curriculum writer and copywriter by day and creative writer by night. Her writing in various forms has appeared in publications such as College of Charleston Magazine, Gravel Literary Magazine, Sanctuary, Miscellany, A Narrow Fellow, and The Journal.

Illustrated by Meher Khan.

Feeding Time