Conor Jameson is a writer and performance artist encouraged to make sense of her world through creative play. Exploring such themes as trauma, love, motherhood, disability, and mental illness, Conor finds sanctuary in the fleetingness of flash fiction and comedy. She loves traveling and reading phrases written on bathroom stalls.
Her arms were the first to go. Essays remained unwritten; stringed instruments locked away in hard cases. Then, it was her nerves.
Her skin was on fire. Pins and needles kept her from focusing on anything else. Yet, despite the agony, Arabella managed to move. Maneuvering her fragile body, she sang, made breakfast, and, most importantly, she prayed.
Then, she lost her voice. She woke up one day and it was gone. Silence.
After that, there were some days when Arabella didn’t get out of bed. At such times, she prayed all day long, every minute, with her eyes fixed on her feet.
My survival is not enough for the world, she thought. Everyone wants a show; everyone wants to be entertained. Everyone wants something, no matter how much of you it takes.
It was a Saturday morning when Arabella was reduced to rough bones and sticky marrow. Her hazel brown hair splintered. She evaporated into distant pulsations. Her blood dried up. Her love of music, of reading, puddled onto the floor. She’d become a stew of vague ambitions and the golden hues of her lost individuality.
Alana became curious. She was driven by frustration with Arabella for not returning her phone calls. Alana missed her hyper and excitable best friend. Her friend who’d let herself into her apartment unannounced at odd hours with smoke stained fingernails. Alana decided to let herself in this time. She drove to Arabella’s place – #2, Hamilton Drive – and unlocked the door using the hide away key.
The first thing she found was Arabella’s moonstone ring. It was laying on her bed entangled in the green cotton sheets. The transparent stone glistened in the sunlight shining through an open window. The colorful old book collection smelled pungent, almost damp and deeply sour.
Alana’s hair stood on end. She faced the dusty pile of old magazine cut outs and gasped for air. She dropped the ring, and the moon fell from the sky. The earth shook. Goosebumps raised her skin. She stood surrounded by Arabella’s clothes, her colorful silk scarves, the sun pooling onto the wooden floor. Alana felt her best friend in everything in the room. But as for Arabella’s body – she’d realized, there was nothing left.
A City Far Away
Arabella likes the water hot. So hot she chokes on the steam. After washing her hair with argan oil she admits defeat. Is she quitting again?
The bathroom mirror becomes the long barrel of a rifle. She examines the coarse, keloided, skin of the scar snaking down her neck. Leaning in, she takes a closer look and is astonished by the faint glimmer of a city somewhere deep inside of her reflection.
She is not a fortress. Arabella is quick to lose her resolve. She’s fickle and indecisive, giving way to her tendency to quit artistic projects, ballet classes. Arabella has been running from her potential for years.
Mother was the first to say it, her voice stern, but innocuous. Father repeatedly affirmed her mother. Only grandfather assured Arabella they were wrong. He’d kiss her cheeks destabilizing the sting of the blow. She was his tough little cookie.
But where is her fortitude now?
She feels a tiger claw the lining of her guts. She lifts her shirt to see the damage: no gaping wounds, no claws. There was only her belly button and a dark mole rising and falling with her breath.
The birds in Texas sound different from the ones in Ohio. They purr like cats or hoot like owls and congregate in the low canopy of the Cedar trees. Arabella remembers the water running in the shower and unbuttons her jeans. She undresses her left leg first pressing into her toes. She watches her muscles and tendons working to contract, but coiling instead: a dragon’s talon. She speaks to her leg like a child, affirming herself with gratitude as she wiggles free from the cloth. She was a mother on the playground: “Fuck yeah, kid, you did it.” Arabella could not quit her body. Her body was everywhere. It was all around her.
“Nurse’s call that hammer toe,” Arabella murmured to herself. She knew that because her ex-husband was a nurse, had been her nurse. He told her that years ago before they were romantic, before she’d ever known his name.
She imagines Jean Pierre – her boyfriend of the past year – in the next room dancing and painting to the Cumbia music he listens to for inspiration.
She catches glimpses of herself standing in fragments in the foggy mirror. She looks past her reflection, past the valley, toward the unreachable city. She yearns to view its outline glimmering inside of her heart. Looking beyond the valley of her reflection, Arabella notices a stone bridge with a brook running underneath it. She imagines the water in the brook is hot like a warning, like Jean Pierre’s bitter breath, or summertime in Texas.
The bird songs are muffled until Arabella opens a window. She sighs. The bones in her ribcage feel heavy, but stabilizing. Steam pours from the doorway as she leaves the bathroom and races toward the bedroom. Dropping the towel, she jumps into bed, splaying her arms and legs open like a lily in bloom. She stares at the ceiling.
Jean Pierre doesn’t look up from his painting. Admiring his use of bold colors and negative space, she shifts her weight to look at him, then back toward the windows stretching up from the floor.
It’s the thirteenth week of quarantine. A month ago (back in March) Governor Mike DeWine issued the first stay at home ordinance in Ohio. Immediately, Arabella risked her life to catch a flight to central Texas where she met up with JP.
Now she’s rolling around in his bed. Sunlight is splashing puddles onto the duvet. She’s admiring the small of his back: short, dark hairs, iridescent beads of sweat.
She asks herself: Is he giving up?
Arabella is turning 30, and she still hasn’t found the perfect shoes to match her dress.
Her sister Maira says: “It’s no big deal. You’ll look okay in your flats. No one even looks at your feet, anyway.”
The thought sends shivers down Arabella’s spine. Her heart beats faster.
Outside the premature bluish-black of morning peeks in through the curtains. A yellow bruise in the sky. Arabella hasn’t slept. Standing absolutely still she examines the hotel room, focusing on the beige carpet tarnished with a brown stain. She places the landline phone down on the desk with a tap. She’s careful not to smear her lilac polish. Thick globs of purple goo slowly petrify, drying neatly on her fingertips. The sharp tang of alcohol remover stings her eyes and burns her nose.
Arabella has been sick all of her life, but her mother doesn’t believe in doctors, so she recently made her first appointment to celebrate making it to thirty. She sat on the examination table, the course paper scratching her legs. She wrung her hands. Her dark blue eyes watered as she followed the blades of a fan swinging slowly beside her on the countertop. The doctor stood stoic in a starched lab coat. Disparate words bled from her mouth. Arabella stitched them together to form thoughts and questions she could barely comprehend. They circled around her head like a vulture circling prey: date of birth, symptoms, erratic behaviors. “Saha,” she seemed to say, “what happened to you after Saha’s death?”
“Excuse me?”Arabella coughed.
“Diet and exercise?” the doctor repeated. The scribe tapped at the keys of her handheld tablet as if reading Arabella’s mind.
Saha had been her everything. He was a small yellow parakeet with an orange circle under his left eye. He was her best friend. He would’ve never told Arabella her shoes didn’t matter, or that no one looked at her feet anyway.
The day Arabella met Saha she and Micheal were still in love. This was before his temper got the best of him and codependence kept her from walking away. One dreary Saturday they meandered around the high street, arm in arm, her torn gym shoes catching on the ground.
Micheal was the one who insisted a bird would enliven their marriage. He’d grown up with canaries and was yearning for his past. Arabella later learned there is no room for the future when a heart desires history. She was thankful, however, that Micheal encouraged her to try: a pet bird, a new adventure.
Saha proved to be a mythical creature. Once, his talon pricked her finger and injected a stillness into her bloodstream that quelled the rapids rushing through her veins. In the soft light of the morning sun only Saha’s gentle chirps awoke Arabella from the heavy, all consuming sleep which kidnapped her for days.
After Saha died Arabella forgot how to spell routine. She wore shirts and even her pants backwards. She wouldn’t change if someone pointed it out because it didn’t really matter anyway.
But her birthday shoes did matter. They were to be blue velvet pumps, designed by a local architect. Arabella wanted them to match her mother’s dress she’d found at the back of the closet.
The clock in the doctor’s office abruptly stole her attention.The ticking reverberated in her head, mimicking her heartbeat. Arabella stood up.
“Thank you so much,” she said, meeting Dr. Georgia’s gaze. “I’m running late.”
Dr. Georgia examined Arabella from head to toe. The faint smell of cabbage lingered in the room. Arabella stood, her short, blond hair as messy as her day-old makeup and the flat purple shoes decaying on her feet.
Their appointment had just begun.