BY POLINA SOLOVYEVA
The Hotchkiss School, '16
2016 Adroit Prize for Prose: Honorable Mention
It is the worst at nights when everything is still and silent because this is when everything that is left is the whisper. I feel the warmth of Harold’s body and I am waiting for his whisper to start I am waiting for his whisper to destroy my defense that I’ve been building up for the whole day. It goes: Alma, Alma, Alma. Then it stops and everything is silent again and this is why and when I give myself a permission to hate her. I lay still I lay waiting for whatever that is next and then he starts whispering again and all I can do is listen to my husband. It goes: Alma, Alma, Alma. I lay in bed next to Harold I lay there every single night listening to him calling for my dead sister. My name is Kat.
My sister’s face looks exactly like my face and my sister’s body looks exactly like my body. This is how I know everything about the gap between our front teeth and about wide bones in our fingers and about our feet arching too much. I know everything and this is why it is easy to picture maggots eating our body that is now just mine. I am thinking about rotting holes in Alma’s body while Harold is calling for her when everything is silent and this is when I promise that I am going to last. It goes: Alma Alma Alma.
I want to make noise because I want the whisper to stop because I want Harold to wake up because I want it silent because all I want is for everything to be completely silent. But I know that if he wakes up he is going to roll over to my part of our bed and he is going to put his hands and his tongue and his legs on me and he is going to start searching through and though my body looking for her. Harold wants to taste her he is going to smell my skin and search and lick and this is why I do not make noise.
This is how he took me: Harold took whatever that remained and it was me and all of my flesh that he smelled through and through the first night he took me because Alma was my twin sister. He took Alma before me and then he married her and then they had a child that killed her body. Alma was good enough to be mourned and Harold is still mourning and this how and why he took me: I am his way of mourning. He invited me to live in his house Harold took me in Harold gave me the child and this is all I have ever wanted.
In the mornings it is the best because this is when we forget that she has ever existed and then I am the only one who has ever been alive and I don’t have to make an effort to be good enough. In the mornings Harold kisses my neck and this is when I know that he knows that my name is Kat. These are the things that I whisper to myself again and again when he is not home: Harold is my husband Harold is my husband Harold is my husband.
We are all going to hell.
The child that Alma did not want looks like me because it looks like her. The child that has sucked Alma’s life out of her is not hers anymore because he is mine because Harold took me because after all I am good enough to be taken by him. Alma was my twin sister and now it doesn’t matter that she was at all because Harold has me and I am good enough to take care of him and I am taking care of him and I promise to everyone (to Alma and to my Mother and to Harold) I promise to all of them that I am going to last. I whisper that Harold is my husband now He is my husband He is my husband and no one can take that away from me not even my Mother. Harold says: I love you. I want to videotape him saying that I want to videotape every single second of that moment and show it to my Mother show it to Her over and over again.
When I look at the child sleeping in his crib with his mouth wide open and covered with saliva I think about my Mother and how she told Alma and me that we were both beautiful girls. My Mother presented us to her friends as a proof of Her being good enough and then they drank and compared our arms and necks and feet. My Mother gave birth to us to justify to Herself that She was good enough to be married that She was good enough to have children that She was good enough to be worshipped. She wanted people to look at Her She wanted them to be jealous of Her She wanted them to love Her. Alma and I were living proofs of our Mother’s beauty and She giggled and whispered small tips on how not to gain weight after pregnancy to Her friends and they listened and worshipped and this was what She wanted. My Mother told us that we were both beautiful girls. Then Alma became the better one and then she died while giving birth to a child that she did not want to have. This is how and when I started sleeping next to her husband who is now my husband and in the mornings it is easy to remember that Alma has never existed because we all crave oblivion because Harold craves oblivion because I crave oblivion for both of us because more than anything else I crave my husband. My name is Kat.
We are all going to hell.
On the day that I kissed a boy for the first time I was laying in my bed next to Alma and I was thinking. I was thinking about how having Ben Riley’s lips on my lips was a sin and about how having his hand on my hip was even more of a sin and about how the worst of the sins was to fail to remove it. Then I whispered into Alma’s ear everything about how it made my stomach feel heavy and sacred. Alma told me that she knows all about it because Alma kissed a boy before me and it also made her stomach feel heavy and sacred.
When Harold is not home I start remembering how we all sat around the table (my Mother and Alma and I) and how everything smelled like washed dishes and vegetables. When Harold is not home I remember how our Mother asked: who was the first one to be kissed by a boy? Alma was the first one because Alma had always been the first one but now Alma is gone and her husband is now mine and in the mornings we both stop remembering that he is still searching for her through and through my flesh believe me Mother we both stop remembering all about her at all we stop remembering that I am his way of mourning. Harold took me and it is the worst at nights and this is when I can picture maggots living deep inside in the holes of her rotting body and hate her I hate her I hate her and it gets me through every single night and in the mornings we can forget and this is when Harold stops mourning and goes to work. I stay at home because I am his wife because I am a mother of his child because I am the love of his life because I am good enough to have the privilege to please him and this is why Alma is not the first one anymore Mother look at me I am the first one now I am the only one please LOVE ME. I think about how my Mother was staring at Alma and then I think about how our nanny told me that She loves me but with a different kind of love with the love that is different from the love that She loves Alma with and I whispered to Alma’s ear all about how kissing Ben Riley made my stomach feel heavy and sacred and then it all became about being good enough and then Alma got Harold and then she was gone and stopped being the first one and this is how Harold took me and I am so grateful look at me I am so grateful.
It goes: Alma Alma Alma. My name is Kat it is Kat Mother please tell him that my name is Kat.
Sometimes when I cook dinner for my husband Harold I think about Alma’s wedding and about how my Mother asked me when I was going to get married while Harold was putting his ring on Alma’s finger the ring on Alma’s finger that has bones that are as wide as my bones that was when I thought about all of our bones together our Mother’s flesh and blood all mixed together and then I saw her turn and stare right into our Mother’s eyes put her hand on her chest so our Mother could see her ring that Alma presented as a proof of being good enough to be our Mother’s daughter as a proof of being good enough to be married as a proof of being good enough to be better than me. My Mother asked me about when I was going to get married and I said that I did not know I did not know that until Harold took me because I was good enough to help him mourn to please him and in the mornings it is easy to forget that he is mourning Alma that we all are mourning Alma and then I am his wife again and forever then I am good to please all of him his soul and his body. Harold wants to mourn and so I mourn with him so I mourn all of myself all of my meat all of my bones into this mourning and into my husband and into my Mother. It goes: Alma Alma Alma.
During the day I go around our house and I whisper to every corner because I want every single thing to know: Harold is my husband Harold is my husband Harold is my husband over and over again please tell that it is true Mother please tell me that it is true so I can be silent so all of me can be silent again.
When Harold comes back home it is raining and the first thing that he does is pull me very close to his wet body let me feel all of it every single piece of meat and bone and hair and then turn me around and pull my dress up and this is what I call searching for Alma this is what I call mourning Alma all of this when He does not say anything He just moves and I do not say anything I just wait because this is not the worst that it can get I am still good enough to be in His house I am still good enough to be His wife Mother look at me: I promised that I am going to last and I am lasting. When it is all done and empty we sit around our table all of us silent all of us peaceful. I still feel Harold’s breath on me Harold breath is musty it smells like something is decomposing inside of him I want to get my sister’s ghost out of his stomach I want to get all of her out and show to my Mother: look at her now Mother look at her don’t you think I am better now Mother? We are all mourning Alma we all are but sometimes I just want to get her out of Harold get her out of my Mother get her out and clean all of them kiss Alma out of their insides until they become clean forever.
My Husband says: thank you and then my Husband calls me by my name He calls me by my name to bring peace to all of us He says: Alma do you want to go to bed? He takes my hand in His hand and I feel how rough his skin is and I think that I am Harold’s wife I have my duties my duty is our house my duty is our child my duty is to help him mourn we are all going to hell we all are.
MY NAME IS KAT.
I think about my Mother’s eyes staring at Alma loving Alma craving Alma saying: when are you going to get married? I am married now Mother I am married I have a child we are all going to hell we are all going to hell it is the worst at nights it goes: ALMA ALMA ALMA and My Husband says: Alma do you want to go to bed? I think about Ben Riley and about how it was a sin not to remove his hands from my hip but then I think about how it was more of a sin to be the second one who was kissed by a boy to be the one who was not good enough to be looked at as a proof of my Mother’s beauty Alma’s body is dead and rotten and I hope she knows that I sleep next to her Husband I hope she knows that her Husband is my Husband now look at me Mother look at me and approve of me Mother I have everything you wanted me to have I am married I was taken I was CHOSEN I do not care what my name is because whatever it is I am good enough now because I am in her place because I am her I am her I am her because now you can look at me the way you looked at her Mother and my way of praying is to please my Husband because I am his wife. I am in her place now look look look at me look at me.
I say yes I say yes and let me clean the table first I say yes and we go I respond YES to my name I respond YES to everything yes yes yes yes and so we go to bed and no one whispers anymore we are all going to hell Mother look at us we are all going to hell.
*Mokita - (PAPUA NEW GUINEA) the truth that we all know but agree not to talk about
Polina Solovyeva is originally from Moscow, Russia, but currently studies at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut. She attended the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Breadloaf and Iowa Young Writers’ Studio at the University of Iowa. She was named a 2016 National YoungArts Finalist in Short Story, and has received a Gold Key for Poetry from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. She currently works for Glass Kite Anthology and Siblíni Art and Literature Journal. She will be attending New York University in the fall.