After a short holiday break, we are back with more fantastic creative voices from around the world. This week’s writer, Sarah Suk, comes to us from Vancouver, Canada. Her story is a lovely glimpse into memory, focusing on the small details we remember from experiences we had as a child, like the colour of our mother’s lipstick or the way the movie theatre seats smelled when we sat watching the pictures after school.
Hearing the Laughter of Ghosts
When we were kids, our moms would take us to our small town movie theatre and buy us a pack of strawberry Twizzlers to split. We would watch movies inside while they sat outside in the parking lot, smoking cigarettes and talking until we came running out, high on sugar and the jam-packed action of the big screen.
You loved my mom. You thought she was the greatest thing since the glow-in-the-dark planet stickers that you had stuck all over your bedroom walls. You told me once that you thought she smoked cigarettes like a movie star.
“Your mom smokes cigarettes too,” I said.
“But not like a movie star,” you said.
You loved how her lipstick was scarlet. You called it glamorous. You loved the way she smiled with her teeth hidden like a secret and how she laughed with her whole head thrown back and her shoulders shaking as if her laugh was an earthquake that erupted inside of her and sent tremors through every part of her body. You loved the way she’d stroke your hair as a way of saying hello and how she called you beautiful.
“You’ll grow up and be a stunner, Eliza,” she said. “Just you wait. With those cheekbones, there’s no doubt about it.”
Even when she left, you still loved her, though you stopped talking about her so much. Maybe it was for my sake. Maybe for both of ours. I saw her ghost in the shade of your lipstick and in the way you laughed, rehearsed at first and then natural like you’ve been doing it all your life, storing earthquakes up inside of you for years until you knew they were strong enough to shake your shoulders like they had shaken hers.
Her ghost was in your cigarette breath and in the graceful flick of your lighter. The first time you smoked, you coughed so hard baby tears filled your eyes. You took a second drag of smoke and then dropped it on the ground, crushing it under the sole of your weathered heel.
“Don’t worry, Logan,” you said. “I won’t cry every time.”
You grew up to be the stunner that she said you’d be. When I told you that I loved you, you smiled my mother’s smile at me and told me you were sorry. Eventually you left like she did for much of the same reasons. You wanted a change, a breath of fresh air that you couldn’t seem to inhale in your own backyard. You couldn’t find it at home. You couldn’t find it in me.
Sometimes I go to the movies and I remember you. I sit in the back with a pack of Twizzlers in my hands and I wonder what it would be like if you had hungered for less. I wonder where you are now and if you can finally breathe, and I imagine you inhaling deep deep deep through a cloud of cigarette smoke. I laugh and my shoulders shake from the seismic waves of your ghost rattling my bones. I think of you and I’m sorry.
So much of story lies in the particulars. The gestures we make and the way our face contorts while we are talking is another story that we tell without using words. A piece like this focuses on those details, despite them being stored for years in memory.
Remember, we are still accepting submissions, so tell your friends and send us some of your own work and maybe you will see it up here in a few weeks!