cotton swab

Posted: July 3, 2019 in chelsea rooney
Tags: , , , ,

Cotton swab, queue tip, dirty lilac. Lilacs grow in spikes called panicles. In Vancouver this morning, I kissed a panicle, not on purpose. The scent powered me over, pulled me off the sidewalk, twisted my nose down deep into its parts. When it was over, I clocked the evidence left behind: lip prints, purple smut against pure white petals.

In springtime in Nova Scotia, my mother twisted cotton swabs into my ears until I felt the buzzing all the way down in my toes. A nonsexual and acceptable physical affection between a parent and their child. I do it now for myself, cotton swabs in my ears, and yes, it works, of course it works, that buzzing. A bit of my mother’s hands still inside my hands, too.

As though my hands were hollowed like lilac stems and my mother’s hands, the pith. This tree, another tree named for another petrified nymph. In ancient times, I have also turned myself to wood. The first batch brought by the Jesuits, the second planted by slaves. So who cares about these flowers, anyway? There certainly has been the devil to pay.

I care. I care, I care, I care, I care. All day I replay the kiss. Night falls and I slip clippers into a vase and drive to the tree. Seize my lip-printed panicle and snip it free, then another, and another and another and another. Beside me, a bicycle with a boy on top rides by and I don’t stop cutting. I will admit in the light what I do in the dark, or else.

Now, everywhere in my apartment is the scent of lilacs. And it’s the same scent that comes in Nova Scotia but closer to summer, prom. In my dress, I stood by the blossoms while my mother snapped photographs. Then, she pushed white panicles of cotton into my ears, cleaning the canals of wax, strumming my body into a hum in time for the dance.

 

 

Chelsea Rooney is a writer living in Vancouver. Her first novel Pedal, published in 2014 by Caitlin Press, was nominated for the Amazon First Novel Award and the ReLit Award for Fiction. Her words have appeared in Quill and Quire, The Capilano Review, Room Magazine, SubTerrain, and elsewhere. She is currently working on her second novel. She can be found at www.chelsearooney.com and on instagram at @cperooney

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