by Cherish Collins
I’m not claustrophobic. I’m not… or wasn’t, but I’ve been stuck here for hours now and I’m starting to think I am. When I heard she died, I told myself I wasn’t going to come back here. She never treated me well in life so why would I honor her in death. I told myself that I hated her and didn’t care, but I’m here, in this house that has smelled like mildew and rotting wood since as long as I can remember. I’ve returned not for her but for my things, the stuff I left here when I fled, ran away from her and this place. I remember the smell as it accosts me when I walk in the door, the splintered wood on the stair rail. The small closet under the steps that I used to pretend was home to a dwarf from a fairy tale when I was still innocent. The small wooden door with the old, rusted, broken lock that got stuck if you closed it. The sacks of potatoes that always smelled like wet dirt. I remember the slanted ceiling in the small, cramped closet under the staircase. I could always hear her footsteps as she stomped up the stairs above that space. And sitting here, trapped, I remember why I left. I hear her footsteps. Her still yelling as she tells me to stay in here and think about what I had done, how I had upset her—I don’t know what I did. As I pull and push at the tiny door, I am 5 years old again, screaming for my mother to release me, telling her I’m sorry as the dust shifts from the floorboards and chokes me.
Cherish Collins is an African American writer and recent graduate of the University of Georgia with a double major in English with a creative writing focus and Russian language. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at UMass-Boston. Her work has previously been published in Aaduna magazine.
The hand-drawn image by Niick.Warr (Nicholas Warfield)
Photo image and author photo by Omotola Ajibade