The Speed of the Living + Mother, False

Tara Isabel Zambrano

The Speed of the Living

It was late at night when my mother died, my brother and I didn’t cry because she had been sick too long, we paced back and forth after the doctor left and the nurses wheeled out the blank monitors, my brother claimed he saw our mother move—a flicker in her eye, a twitch around her mouth, No way, I said, Shh… he placed a finger on my lips and stalled like statues we glared hot on her see-through skin as if it were supposed to make her warm with a pulse, jerk her bones into a gesture, until he walked out to make arrangements for the body, I swiped apps on phone, posted a younger picture of her on Twitter—RIP mom, she looked deceptively soft because I knew she had a jackhammer of a will, her teeth so straight I forgot I hadn’t eaten the whole day, she didn’t eat before she died, because her tongue that fathered us after dad left could not form any more questions or give answers to fill us up, the likes and comments on her photo−a currency I had never accumulated before on my own from strangers who commented she was in a better place, I pressed my sneakers harder into the phenyl-coated tiles, they squeaked like police cars turning around a corner, chasing a ghost in the city swollen with humidity when my hand palmed the faux leather of the chair it felt like wet skin, and I wondered if I always disappointed my mother and now she was gone where would I be—sad and guilty I didn’t know why this whole time the television had been on with men and women who argued about forest fires and the melting glaciers, illegal immigrants and women’s rights, their faces drowned in makeup and despair, detailed with—I want to love somebody, something, I want someone to want me, while my mother’s lips were chapped and pale she might have freaked out to see herself without proper makeup so I pulled out a hot coral stick from my purse, a bit shrill, tapped it on her lips and to dab the excess a tissue from the box on the bedside table but it came out without a smudge—that’s how I realized how numb death was, there was no telltale red of a kiss only quiet pouring out of a mouth indifferent to the speed of the hungry, gnarly world.

Tara Isabel Zambrano is the author of Death, Desire and Other Destinations, a full-length flash collection by OKAY Donkey Press. Her work has won the first prize in The Southampton Review Short Short Fiction Contest 2019, a second prize in Bath Flash Award 2020, been a Finalist in Bat City Review 2018 Short Prose Contest and Mid-American Review Fineline 2018 Contest. Her flash fiction has been published in The Best Small Fictions 2019, The Best Micro Fiction 2019, 2020 anthology. She lives in Texas and is the Fiction Editor for Waxwing Literary Journal.

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