Mary-Margaret folded the towel. She palmed the white fluff and draped it over the brass holder. The bathroom lacked any kind of mirror; there was no receptacle to capture her soft middle-aged body. Just a simple shower, a sink, a toilet, a window, letting out into the grass. A plain stone counter, just two identical toothbrushes and a tube of EezeeyCleen. She closed the toilet lid so she could sit, squeezed the tube into her papery palm.
Glork, it went, and Mary-Margaret spread the thin gray goop onto her forehead and smeared it under her eyes. She prepared her face, feeling over crow’s feet and nasolabial folds. Mary-Margaret had dared, dared once to examine herself in the sink. She had pushed a swab of cotton down the drain and let the basin fill to the brim. She had only been able to study herself for a little bit until she had been interrupted by Marcus. STOP, he said, and WHAT ARE YOU DOING. His hairy arm plunged into the font, and water spilled over the counter and onto the tiles below. Gurp, said the sink, gurgle, and Mary-Margaret’s echo was gone. Marcus and Mary-Margaret would never speak of it again.
After she was done with her face, Mary-Margaret worked the EezeeyCleen into her scalp. The process was as arduous as it was necessary. Her hands, now covered in thick paste, sculpted the gel into her frizzy hair. Eventually what remained was a solid mass of slime and mane. Good. Eeeasy. The comb came next. It was a thick-toothed with widely-spaced notches for efficiency. She brushed her hair till it was stick straight. When she was done, she stood up and looked at the wall, imagining she could see herself in a mirror. She imagined her handiwork. Her eyes danced across the bathroom. It was necessary to wait for the goop to fully harden onto the skin and scalp. Her eyes caught a flicker of light, the field outside the window.
Waves of green grass. Not the plastic manufactured turf that was community-approved, but real, raw, grass. Mary-Margaret lived with Marcus close to the outskirts, close enough that she had to look at it.
Don’t you ever wonder what it feels like? Mary-Margaret had asked. She had been eating EezeyCleen with Mina one lazy brunch. Mary-Margaret relished in the clean tastelessness of the elastic mush. Yes, the grass was not fenced away from the community. It was a test of faith and temptation. To go from the plastic certainty of the artificial turf to the unpredictable organic sauce of clovers, wildflowers and dirt, was fatal.
Heavens, no, Mary-Margaret. Don’t you ever remember Magnolia? And yes, she did. Mary-Margaret had seen it through the blinds of the second-floor guest room. She had been gargling paste or treating a wound with paste or thinking about what kind of paste she needed for dinner. Magnolia had been on the edge of her fake lawn. She was looking into the grass, the real grass intently. Her amber hair floated behind her gooplessly. The community had noticed; they were cloistered at her gate, watching wordlessly with fear. The children looked on with curiosity, the men anger. When Magnolia removed her frock, her naked body shone like a jewel in the sun. The white dress floated away over the artificial turf, snagging on a lawn chair before sweeping into the expanse of green and gold. Somebody screamed.Then, Magnolia glided like a ship into the endless sea into the goldenrod. The grass overtook her corporal body. She would never be seen again. The community erupted into mourning. The women howled with terror, the men fired rifles for cinematic effect. I do remember Magnolia. How awful. How tragic.
But it had been an act. Mary-Margaret, the sinner, had been impressed. Under the silver eye of the moon she began to emerge at night, like a cicada breaking out of its shell. She would look at the grass, think about touching it, think about rubbing her face in it, burrowing her nose into the core of the earth, inhaling the warm smell of dirt. She wondered what it would be like to take big wads of it into her mouth and chew. She imagined what it would feel like to let her hair float behind her, ungooped, to wear her body like its own dress. But Marcus had caught her. WHAT ARE YOU DOING, and MARY-MARGARET, GET INSIDE. Her pointer finger had almost touched a thick stem, examined a small dogeared leaf. Marcus and Mary-Margaret would never speak of it again.
Natalia (Nat) Blooming is an artist and educator based out of Athens, Georgia. Her work carves into intersectional lived experiences within the South, and she seeks to explore the language of her upbringing through representation of magical reality. Words and paint become mediumistic, asking for ancestral longing or the syntax of the dead. Her prayers and spells invite excavation as the spectator is allowed into an otherworldly yet familiar space.
more on https://nataliablooming.substack.com/