AJ Pearson-VanderBroek

AJ Pearson-VanderBroek is currently a student who is terrified of being released from college with a B.S. in language arts, with a minor in psychology, in May of 2011. She wants to work in print journalism, much to the dismay of her newspaper-editing mother. Her work has appeared in Short, Fast and Deadly as well as The Fertile Source, Cliterature, and Breath and Shadow Magazine. She has a blog at http://ajpvb.blogspot.com/.

 

Honey Rose (December 20, 2010. Issue 23.)

Sepia toned photographs of the 1930’s – tinted browns like the gravel driveway and farm house cornices. Smiling beneath a curly mop-top, standing proud in a home-made pair of leather Mary Janes – her best imaginary friend is the little girl – like her – who flies down the stairs each morning.

***

Lodged in the jumbled chaos of a clearance basket is a tube of lipstick for one dollar. I know that color – however frequently it escapes me. I sometimes glimpse it in the blushing skin of a fruit, or along the pale lining of morning clouds, but just as soon as it registers, I lose it. The same way it vanishes from my memory if I concentrate on it for more than a few seconds. But it is always there, somewhere. Peripheral. Internal. A hue, turned symbol in the personal unconscious, permanently etched in my perception of the world – always to be caught in glints or glimmering intervals traced with the taste of wax and powdered sugar. Sweet – fresh, crisp and clean. But now it is glaring so bright before my eyes, it almost burns, I swear it will be inlayed like sunspots on my retinas if I look away.

Number 96. Honey Rose. My grandmother’s lipstick shade.

***

She worked young – she wed in a blue dress – she heard voices.

***

I arrived after her acclaimed years of bakery and rabbit stew – set upon the foundation of harvest scraps and head cheese. Her grand kids heralded dessert days of root beer floats and forgotten canned tomatoes in archaic mason jars. Dangly earrings, diamonds and opalescent (never matte) nail polish in purples and greens illustrate her ghost stories of fingerprints left on mirrors. Different blouse for each day of the week, but her lipstick always remained the same.

***

Pacing, panting, down the halls of the nursing home clinching her rings in her fists – terrified of the thieves that crawl in under the windowsill, but willing to give it all up to keep “them” from what they threaten. She still wears her red open-toe wedges to stumble up and down, over the grungy tiles permeated with human odor – so far from sweet wax and cooling powder.

***

I pick out the hand sewn mini dresses and match them up to the olive faded Polaroids from ’59 and ’66. Pearls and pumps with white cotton wrapped and bibbed baby on one hip, uniformed husband on the other. Black and white checkered, teal and art-deco strawberry and plum print. I want to hem them and wear them with jeans. I can’t wear her shoes and the blueberry lace on her wedding dress has become so faded that I don’t have the courage to lift it. I put away the plastic storage tubs and photo albums in my aunt’s basement cupboards. I turn out the light, and keep my thoughts to myself. I already feel more at home with the Schizophrenia in my pen. Hopefully the clothes will help me keep it in my poetry and out of my relationships.

***

Grandpa wouldn’t let her drive. My boyfriend teaches me to operate a clutch with the same consideration he gave me on our first date – opening doors, calculated patience. I stand independent from the submission of her generation. But part of me still answers to Honey Rose. It goes perfect with the fruit dress.

***

The hand stitching runs along my frenzied pulse lines. Back zipper agape, crisscrossed straps pulled aside, brown curls wiped tenderly from my forehead. He rubs his hands across my abdomen, brushing my faux pearl navel ring and I feel the pearl necklace snaking away from her throat, sensuous.

Strength. Weakness. Beauty.

I still wash it off before I kiss him, to not smudge the color. Even on my lips, I cannot stand to see it faint.