Colony Collapse

hybrid by R.S. Wynn

I remember my mother’s house before the divorce, when my father still brought order to her rooms. I remember boots aligned and blankets folded neatly on the backs of chairs, though my brother, sister, and I never squared them just so. But our father moved out and chaos filled in. We scrambled then between cardboard boxes, sliding down alleys of pumpkin pine floors. We shed Barbies with crew cuts, lace bobby socks, Tonka trucks, elastics for hair and elastics for weapons, gum and gum wrappers, crayons, markers, glue. O sweet abandon, running and never looking back. Honey without its stickiness. 

Decades later, I visit my mother at our family home. Forgotten by the entry are my brother’s old tackle box and some school art projects. Forgotten are my sister’s shoes, herb pots, and crockery cabinet. Our mother is there, in the kitchen, watering green windowsills of plants I discarded. I wonder how she lives like this, with my father’s brittle shell collection displayed on a bookshelf, with my brother’s Legos semi-boxed, those plastic pebbles she still finds scattered underfoot, with our old socks, dolls, and trucks gathering dust like pollen. How does she survive our half dozen coats hanging in the closet, the unfinished books I failed to love, my half-knit scarves, the forgotten mobiles and paintings that I, of fleeting attention, abandoned?

I picture morning dawning on the ten thousand things we left behind, fleeing our collapse. I picture morning dawning on my mother buzzing in a valley between steep climbs of cardboard boxes, searching under jointly filed tax returns for a spoon to stir her coffee. She swears she’ll bring order to it all one day. Like a poem, she’ll make sense of it later. Meanwhile, she claims she doesn’t mind, calls each box a time capsule, a museum: her joyous hive. And I do see how the brown petals of boxes peel back at her prodding like flowers opening to the sun. Still, I feel ashamed leaving my mother here in her sweet amber honey—stuck. Running nowhere.