Dear Uncle Evans,
It’s been a while since my last letter, ten years in case you were counting. I’m writing to let you know that I know that you’re not really my uncle, I mean you are, but there’s so much more to it, right?
Mom’s dead. I now own the house on 12 Arlington Street where you both grew up. She left you a box, said it was for your eyes only. I don’t know why she said that. We both knew an inmate gouged your eyes in one of those bloody prison fights.
The box has Mom’s purse in it. I think bats live inside, noisy little blind bats. Imagine that. Quite unnatural, just as unnatural as you being mom’s half- brother. I always thought you were a full blood relative, not just another one of Grandma Celeste’s mistakes.
The purse has a piece of paper, not sure you’d make out Celeste’s shameless handwriting. It’s not possible to read the note now, not because the tattered, torn bits glued together decades ago are hardly holding, or because the words I knew by heart are smudged real bad, but because, it’s in there with the bats. The purse also has: her dried roses that are more ashes than anything, an empty mascara tube, a 4×6 photo of her much younger self, a hairbrush with damaged bristles, and a fossilized fortune cookie with its fortune message snuggled inside, forever.
I was a scared six year-old hiding under the bed with my Raggedy Ann doll when the police took you away. I’ve often wondered, back then, why Celeste renounced you the way she did. I think she was the one who called the cops on you. I remember her calling mom an ungodly whore, like she was some saint, like there were godly and ungodly whores. That Grandma Celeste was a piece of work, with her noisy stilettos, those Rothmans she smoked like her life depended on it, and of course all those lovers she brought back home every night. Mom used to spill detergent in the hallway after they left.
You were both hers, different fathers and all, but mom really wished she wasn’t.
Mom kept those battered sepia photos of you when you were little. For years, I thought they were mine. We do have an uncanny resemblance.
A week before mom died, she told me she saw you in a dream, your sea-blue eyes seeing still. She also said you were Celeste’s one true love. Hers too, I suppose. Must’ve been hard when Celeste found out the truth.
She sent you postcards she made herself. She’d use my only pen to write something nice —in that shameless handwriting she’d inherited— even when I’ve had piles of homework to finish. You were all she’d got, all she ever wanted to hang on to. She used to draw bats and tell me they had better wings than any bird, that they looked like foxes, and that they made good couples and great parents. I could imagine Celeste’s unnatural thoughts about bats and pretty much everything.
When she first found the note, she ripped it apart, first into larger pieces, then smaller ones. She wept and wailed looking like a bald rose with no petals, vulnerable and bare, but beautiful still. I salvaged what I could, and for weeks agonized over the parts I couldn’t save. I had to figure out the missing bits.
Mom died on the first day of August, a Nembutal overdose after a night of whiskey and dancing to Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World. I turned thirty-seven on that day. I buried her with what she thought she protected me from.
Uncle Evans, I’m pretty sure, you won’t be getting this, but I just had to let it out. The one thing I regret was not letting mom know I knew. Her life was like one misfired gun, but now I’m letting you know I know.
Riham Adly is a mother, ex-dentist, and is trying to be a full time fiction writer/ blogger. She is also first reader in Vestal Review Magazine and has worked as a volunteer editor in 101 words magazine. Her fiction has appeared in journals such Bending Genres, Connotation Press, Spelk, and The Cabinet of Heed, Vestal Review, SoftCartel, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Ekphrastic Review, Cafelit, FictionalCafe.com, FridayFlashFiction, Flash Boulevard, and Page & Spine among others. Her short story “The Darker Side of the Moon” Won the Makan Award contest in 2013, and she was recently short-listed in the ArabLit Translation Prize.
You can visit Riham’s website: www.rihamadly.com and find her on twitter : @roseinink.