--I THINK OF YOU EVERY DAY
Song of Infinity
Fat. Fattie. Fattie Mattie. That’s what she calls herself, what her mother calls her, too. One says it out loud and the other writes it on her thigh with the metal tooth of a hair brush.
For Mattie’s birthday she gets to pick the cake flavor but someone has misspelled Happy and her name, so Mattie’s mother makes a joke, says that money can’t buy happiness but it should at least be able to afford Happy.
That night Mattie dreams of porcupines. She wakes and remembers two porcupines having sex and thinks to herself, how clever that neither one gets hurt in the process.
Her next dream is about Uncle Ernesto, his fang teeth and yellow eyes. He smells like venom and spits peanut shells in her ear. His whiskers are prickly against her skin, same as a porcupine.
In the morning, as a diversion, Mattie takes up singing. Instead of speaking or communicating she sings. All the time, there is a song on her lips. Now she no longer stutters.
On the bus there are 18 x’s 2 places to sit. Mattie takes the entire back row. Everyone leaves her alone. She’s already ruled out suicide but just to see what it might be like she stabs a butcher knife through the vinyl seat, the blade nicking her nylons. Nacho-tinged laughter rattles around the bus cab like lost hubcaps down the street. Next, someone tosses a condom water balloon, and when it bursts perfectly in Mattie’s lap, there’s a tornado of squeals and giggles. It doesn’t matter now, so Mattie presses her palm into her pelvis, where a squiggling baby would be if she were pregnant. She uses so much pressure that pee shoots through her skirt and down her ankles and into her shoes, and even though no one’s watching or listening she takes up an aria by the great Malena Ernman.
When she’s at the pool that weekend Mattie closes her eyes and studies the muffled blanket noises of people spending their lives. What she hears seems impossible to her, so she hums a tune, but humming is not the same as singing, just as living is not the same as filling out the moments of a life.
Mattie stands up and arches her back. She hears her mother’s voice warning her about posture, about getting osteoporosis and how it’s more slimming if you don’t hunch your shoulders.
People stare and jeer and jab fingers in the air at her. Mattie doesn’t care. She sings a song, the one about the silken feel of a lover’s skin and his lips tasting like candied roses.
She walks to the diving board, the high dive, steps across the plank and sits on the edge, and when the ones on the ladder behind her start to scream for her to jump, Mattie removes the knife from her suit bottoms and holds it like a torch, same as Lady Liberty.
They scream for her, “Don’t do it!” Some scream that she should. Some beg, “Please, please, do it!”
No one’s ever wanted anything from her that Mattie can remember and so she obliges, jams the blade all the way through her thigh, and it would still be stuck to the diving board but the tip breaks off as Mattie’s weigh crumbles like a mountain, heaving forward.
She somersaults. She smiles. The pain is electric and overwhelming. Mattie hadn’t thought it would hurt so much, or even, that such a thing was possible. The gusting air is a chorus of screams gift-wrapped as a song.
The last thing she sees is the little girl with the pink snow cone standing under a shade umbrella. Their eyes meet. The girl holds the cone skyward, a proud statue saluting, and opens her mouth to sing.