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alexandra gilwit

New Fiction


by Alexandra Gilwit

      My sister is pregnant and my grandma is dying. Actually, let me rephrase that, my sister is getting an abortion and my grandma is being taken off of her feeding tube so that she can starve to death. I found all of this out on a Monday. I hate Mondays. What’s worse is, I am a selfish asshole. Basically, I personalize. With my sister, my hysteria lasted until I got my period that night. But with my grandmother, I googled whether Parkinson’s is genetic during downtime at my barista job. It kind of is and it kind of isn’t. People apparently don’t know that much about Parkinson’s.
      I read something in one of Google’s top five articles for Parkinson’s that said, “It could happen from your environment, if you are introduced to ‘metals.’” What fucking metals are they talking about? I’m introduced to ‘metals’ every friggen day. The idea of harmful ‘metals’ made me think of my friend, Moon, out in Portland. I asked him drunkenly one night why he had that name, if his parents were hippies or astronomers or something. He told me that it was the name his three-year old sister gave him when he was born. He also told me that she died that year from a brain tumor. That they lived near power lines and that his parents believed it had a fatal effect on her.
      My sister was the first to notice when my grandma started showing the symptoms of Parkinson’s. She was always more observant than me, like that time that she knew there was something wrong with our dog and I said that she was being paranoid and then he died two months later. But she was just as surprised as me about our brother.
      Moon and I used to date, a couple of years ago. I liked him because he wasn’t boring. Him not being boring, to me, meant that he lived in a trailer outside of the house that he owned. He farmed and sold real estate, so on any given day he either had on a tie or cutoff shorts. Unpredictable. I asked him how he was able to afford a house. He said it was because of the power lines. He lived right under a bunch of power lines. One day we woke up and he said, “Alex, can I show you my garden?”
      And I said, “Sure.” I felt melancholy about a dream I had had that night, and I just wanted to cuddle with him and maybe have sex, but I said, “Sure.” I always say, “Sure.”
      He took me to a small plot just behind his trailer and pointed out where different things were planted as he watered it. I just looked up at the power lines. I swear I could almost hear them hum with electric radiation. I said, “Should you be planting those there? Don’t you think that they will become contaminated?” He didn’t look up when he replied.
      “No, that stuff is bullshit. These plants are fine.”
      “I dreamt about my brother that killed himself, last night.”
      Moon didn’t hear me; I didn’t really want him to. We made one Super-8 film in his backyard with the power lines before we stopped dating. Neither of us felt like waiting for the film to develop before ending it. We weren’t compatible. It’s good, because I didn’t want to get any more radiation.
      I once, when she was well, asked my grandmother if she was afraid to die. At first she answered the question with an anecdote about how she needed to talk to a woman at her temple about ‘arrangements,’ but that she kept putting it off. I said, “What arrangements?”
      She didn’t answer me for a while; she was too focused on this woman that she had to talk to. I had to push for an answer. She finally said it, “To be buried in New York, next to my husband.”
      I said, “You want to talk about funeral arrangements with a woman at your temple!”
      “It’s her job. She arranges these things.”
      I could feel that the expression on my face wasn’t doing much to hide my disgust. “So, are you afraid to die?”
      She struggled with the question for a while. I could see that she was clarifying things in her mind. I asked her once more, more to just know what she was thinking, to get into her head.
      She finally broke. “I guess I am?”
      “You are?” It was then that I felt afraid of my own question.
      “Yes, because I’m afraid of this woman. I’m actually afraid of her. When she is around, I feel as if she is going to jump out and bite me and make me dead.”
      My sister isn’t as close to my grandma as I am. My grandma always felt like she relied on male attention too much, that she dated stupid boys that would do whatever she wanted them to.
      I assured her that the boy that my sister was dating this time was a good one. That he was smart. That was three boyfriends ago. The father of this baby is some boy I’ve never met, but who is nice, from what I can gather from my sister. My grandma asked me when I was going to meet a nice boy? A Besheret, the Yiddish word for Jewish Soul mate. I didn’t have the heart to tell her about Moon, because he wasn’t Jewish. Now I’m glad I never said anything.
      The last time I saw my brother before he killed himself, he told me that he wanted to die.
      I told him that I felt that way in high school, too, but that it gets better in college.
      He didn’t believe me, I guess.
      I found out on a Monday. I was in class — Experimental Film — my favorite class. My sister kept calling me. I had to answer. She said, “Sam shot himself.” She barely said it, but she did say it.
      I said, “Is he okay?”
      She said, “No! Alex! He SHOT himself. What do YOU think?”
      I said, “What?” But this ‘what’ wasn’t really out loud. My lips were out loud but my ‘what’ was swallowed by my throat. My ‘what’ never got to be a ‘what.’ Never even got to be a syllable. My ‘what’ was then eternal, a memory of what would never be. Like an aborted fetus.
      He did it in the bathroom. He looked. He looked. He looked. Into the mirror. He wanted to see what it looked like. What it looked like to die.
      Sometimes I find myself thinking about that moment. Personalizing. Being Sam for that morning. Letting the gun that he found in an unlocked car sit in his hand. Heavy. Bringing it up. Actually, I bet all of that was the easy part. I bet the hard part actually came when the gun was cocked, his teeth grinding against the metals. When I personalize this part I hold my breath. But I can never make it through to pulling the trigger. My body always kicks my self out of it like I’m falling in a dream. My mind lets me get just to the brink but always rescues me before I get swallowed by the thought. I don’t want to know what death looks like. I want to live.
      I called my grandma yesterday, Monday. In truth, I called my dad who put the receiver of his phone up to her ear. The last time I saw her she was frail but eating. On the phone she sounded weak and afraid. She kept calling me, “Bubeh.” She thought that I was her grandmother. I could hear my father correcting her on the other end.
      “No Sylvia, it’s Alex. Your granddaughter.”
      “Alex!” I could tell she didn’t have her teeth in by the way she swallowed the ‘X’ sound.
      I said, “Hi, Grandma.”
      Then, there was silence. An obvious place for me to initiate conversation, but I was at a loss for what to talk about. After a few seconds my grandma started yelling, “I love you! I love you! I love you!” They didn’t sound like that but I knew that that was what she was saying.
      After he left, my dad called me back. “Isn’t that amazing? She said she loved you!”
      “Sure.” I agreed because I realized then that she had been bad for a lot longer than I had acknowledged. That, what was amazing to my dad, was actually alarming to me.
      He had told me in tears, just before visiting her that day, that Hospice wanted to shut off her feeding tube because she wasn’t eating and it was hopeless to continue trying to keep her alive. He said they felt it was time because she was suffering.
      I asked him what he thought and he said that the idea of Grandma slowly being starved to death seemed less humane. I agreed.
      I tried to call my sister again this morning. She’s been ignoring my calls since Monday. She thinks I’m ashamed of her. She won’t let me tell her that I understand, that this happens to a lot of people, that this doesn’t mean anything about her, that I’m glad she isn’t keeping it. I’m worried that she is going to have to do it alone, but she won’t answer me so I can’t know.
      After my third attempt, I started washing the dishes in my kitchen. I heard a loud squeal, like a pipe was about to burst and gush out gallons of pressurized water. I looked around, and realized that the sound was actually coming from a fly stuck to a ribbon of flypaper. I’d seen many flies meet their end from flypaper, but never had I heard one put up such a fight as this one. I watched it struggle for a moment then grabbed for a pen to rescue it. No thing that wanted to live this much deserved to die. I couldn’t rescue it though, it was too stuck. I think it has given up by now.

Alexandra Gilwit is currently getting her masters in Film. She has always loved to write and has been published in several magazines including Mangrove Magazine, Cynic Magazine, and Annex Theater Zine. She recently moved from Baltimore, Maryland, to Brooklyn, New York, and is now very poor because it is so expensive but is enjoying it nonetheless. She also tells jokes on the side but this piece isn't funny. She does write funny stories sometimes on her tumblr or her blog, they are both called Gillahmonster.

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