March 4, 2022
by Morghen Tidd
the summer fern dies is the long kind of summer.
stretched taut across months. months that feel like decades. decades that feel like. her death a lazy accident. the kind that could have been avoided with some type of ease. the kind that could have been avoided.
when fern dies i am on a walk. wandering as i do aimless in the heat. i walk past a child in tears on a bicycle. a mother trying to comfort her. i walk slowly. i walk as if i am on the outside of something. i walk as if i want to be a ghost. presence felt not seen. name something more beautiful than that. i walk and fern dies in unison.
fern. dies. and i spend my time reading obituaries and reddit threads. i take things slow. ease into the season like something for granted. i want to fill in the gaps with something else but there is nothing left. watching reality tv shows and dragonflies. i don’t like reality tv but the hollow drama fills my dumb little days. my nana loved dragonflies like fairies. i don’t remember the last time i saw my nana. i do remember the day she died. her voice on my mother’s answering machine stagnant in the way recordings are. her now dead voice calling my mother pooh bear a last tenderness. the way she called me baby girl. if i focus i can still hear the ghost of her voice deep in my ears. a ringing. my nana visits me in a dream and i accept her back into my life even though she is still dead. in my dream this makes sense and i feel happy.
i want a vespa though i don’t actually know what a vespa is. i want a lot of things i don’t and will never own. things that could fill the space between me and them. me and everyone. i want to buy more underwear to avoid laundry in longer intervals. my closet overflowing with the whimsy of my desire. my life overflowing with whimsy. my inability to get anything done shows in all ways around me. i avoid taking out my trash to avoid my neighbors. bloody pads wrapped in toilet paper and the disasters of rotting food tied up tight in bags. i imagine. i imagine a version of myself with more life. i imagine what that version would think of me.
fern. dies. and this is my last summer here. useless and lazy. i used to think i had seasonal depression. now i think i am just depressed. the dishes pile up as they do. a smell fills my apartment. rancid fruit bought and forgotten. tomato sauce dried to stainless steel dishes in the heat. i try to rid myself of things to make moving easier but more objects find their way back. to pack up my life. i don’t want to move again. i don’t want to move. i hang flowers upside down in my room to dry. their colors seep away. they are brittle and lifeless. held together with twine. i only know the name of the roses. the rest suspended in their mystery to me. when i move i don’t know how i will bring them along. i should have pressed them in between book pages. i should have preserved them better.
when fern dies i message a friend and tell her. fern. my neighbor’s cat. fern is dead. my friend says i am sorry about your neighbor’s cat. and it feels uncomforting. fern would greet me at the door on the rickety porch leading to the apartment building. sometimes she would meet me at my car which jumped me in the dark. she looked like my own cat who i had to leave behind when i moved out of my parents’ home. my cat i got from my nana a few years before she died. both little black cats with striking eyes. like they knew something secret. i would watch fern wandering in the summer heat from my second story window. i would let her in at night when it was too late for a little life to be outside. she did not live outside but my life with her was out there. old asphalt and the dust from the street traffic. the street traffic. busy for a short slow one way. for what should be a short slow one way. for what should be. the speeding traffic of stupidity flying down the street’s opposite. the worn out do not enter sign at the exit. her death an accident. i’m sure they were sorry. but there’s no forgiveness to be found though i search for it. fern never went in the road. usually. but fern was in the road greeting as she did the new neighbors in a new building across the street. a fault in friendliness. fern was hit by a car speeding down the wrong way. tires ripping up the dust. she died immediately i am told. as if that makes it less painful. as if i should be thankful. fern’s death a lazy accident. fern’s death an accident. fern’s death. fern is dead. fern didn’t have to die that afternoon. fern did not have to die. fern should not be dead. and i wish that changed something. and i think of how fast they must have been going to not see her. and i think of her warm body turned into a broken and dead thing. and i think of how much i hate that driver whoever they were. and i think of fern. i think of her every time i move to and from my apartment. check the mail and think of fern. take out the trash and think of fern. go for a walk and fern. fern. fern was my neighbor’s cat and i loved her because she was there. i have loved people for much less.
i think about my own death often. it always takes shape of a suicide. or a murder. it always takes shape. i don’t want to die right now. at the moment. i want other things in the before. the shapes it takes. has taken. a body starved into submission. a body starved. cultivating a desire to live through abstractions. i read through the masses of articles on disappeared women. i have always believed i will die by suicide or by murder. by the hand of a man. in the summer i walk from my partner’s house to the dingy gas station. a ten minute stretch. jeers and cat calls thrown at me. my body is made into a thing with every word. when i leave the store it is getting dark. i walk slow past the restaurant making eye contact with each passerby. a please remember me. a please remember. a please. when i reach the wooded area bordered by a fence and a river. i run. when my mother was young she was stalked by a man in an orange yugo. for a long time he would follow her when she walked home from school. for a long time he would follow her while she rode her bike around the maze of the housing project where she lived. she would see his orange yugo outside her window at night. and when she told her mother she was not believed. nothing was done. i remember pulling tight the curtains in my room after she tells me this as a child. i remember looking over my shoulder while riding my bike down the wooded rural road of my hometown. i remember showing her a picture of an orange yugo watching her turn into a ghost before me. this man who later murdered a classmate of hers. dumped her classmate’s body in a dirt pit and sped off. when i was in middle school a classmate i turned down for a date told my brother he wanted to tie me down rape and stab me to death. my brother beat the shit out of him. violence met with violence. but nothing more was done about it. the school did not care. i wonder the price of my life. the worth. i did not date until i was nineteen. i was afraid of men. am afraid of men.
the last time i see fern i shoo her into the apartment without a word. it’s past midnight. and i am tired. and i am slightly drunk. and i am taking her for granted. lock her inside the building without a second thought. and the next day she is outside again. and the next day she is in the road. and the next day she is dead. and i wish i had known before. and i am so stupid for not knowing. and i am so stupid. and i return to that night again and again. with regret. with hate. and had i known i would have stayed there with her. us outside forever.
my partner is the one who tells me of the news. he says did you talk to your neighbor’s daughter today. and i say no. and he says fern. and i feel in my throat what he is about to say. and i feel in my finger tips her fur. and i feel in my spit the night before. and my bones know that fern is dead before i am told. and he says fern is dead but i am already crying
in the summer i stop writing. i do not believe in muses or divine inspiration. but i feel like something has left me behind. vulnerable and unsettled. i stare into empty documents. i flip through empty pages. i try to remember what it was like before. the summer carves out loss like empty rooms. like my apartment before i moved in. like my bedroom at my family’s home when i moved out. i wonder if houses miss their occupants. i wonder who will move into my apartment when i’m gone. from my bedroom window i used to watch fern lazing in the summer grass. now from my bedroom window i look to my friend’s house. i walk to her house for parties. sometimes for movies. sometimes i’m drunk but it doesn’t matter because i’m walking and the vicious dog that used to bark at me is gone. sometimes i look out my window to see if she’s home. a light in the kitchen window. a sign of life despite loneliness. she doesn’t come over to my apartment because i don’t invite anyone over. my space is mine alone and i don’t know how to share that. when fern dies there is no greeting from the porch anymore. my neighbors no longer talk to each other. when i walk home in the dark i walk home alone.
fern. dies. and i go to one funeral. it is not fern’s. i’m not sure whether or not there was one for her. it is stifling air caught in my throat on this day of loss. summer laying its heat on everyone’s shoulders. my partner his family say goodbye to virginia as i watch from the last row of pews. wind knocked i sit collapsing in on myself along with his cousins who cannot approach the open casket. i think of the last time i saw her with a promise made to visit in the summer. this summer one long loss. a log home with a spectacular view of thickly evergreens. now a ghost in my throat playing witness to generations of love spilling forth. the photo presentation of a life skipping to and fro in time. her young in furs with a cigarette an air of ease and eternity. i wear a black turtleneck dress with combat boots gilded gold. an uncle of his a son of hers admires a bold choice and i say its all i own. i carry tissues around crushed into balls hidden in my palms. i cry ugly. everyone does. grief in unison. when the family speaks of her i can taste the love in the air. thick like a life of devotion. adoration. i am given roses from bouquets that i hang upside down to dry. a momentum to memory. i think back to my own nana’s death. i did not cry at my nana’s funeral. no one did.
on the day before the last day of the month i get a stupid tattoo. the tattoo isn’t stupid because its bad or unartful. the tattoo is stupid because everything i do is stupid. entranced by my own stupidity i stay here forever. or feel as though i do. the tattoo hurts like three nails being dragged across my shin bone. my leg involuntarily jumps. my friend who i reconciled with before the summer is there because she works there. we move from best friends to friends to best friends to apart and then back again. stuck on a repeat. she is one of the only people i am able to forgive. we meet again at a coffee shop when she asks me to forgive her. i tell her all my anger and make her cry there. the other customers uncomfortable and myself unflinching. i forgive her because i feel like i’ve always known her. she talks to me while i get the tattoo. she takes a posed picture of me when i ask her too. i’m not cool enough to pretend that it doesn’t hurt. i’m not cool enough to pretend that i don’t feel stuck here. i’m not cool enough to pretend that i don’t feel haunted. i pretend. i wince. and it’s over. and i forget how it felt to begin with.
i don’t remember the last time i saw my nana. her days were her own. i lived less than an hour from her. but time was busy and time was work. we have a similar scorpio stellium. something i didn’t know until after she was dead. i think of her on thanksgivings and some of the times in between. one of my most vivid memories of her is when she stayed with me and made shepards pie. when i still ate meat. i fed some to my bird and i remember being happy. an other when my mother and her fought one afternoon. not physical but the pain felt it. all my mother ever wanted from her mother was time. she never got it. never will get it now. never. a laptop slammed into the table. the sound of my mother crying the worst sound i can think of. screams that disturbed the walls of my great grandmother’s old home. i was born while my great great grandmother was still alive. the women in my family become mothers young. too young. my mother at 21. my nana at 16 with a man who was in his late 20s. i hate him. though i have only met him once. i have the little diamond wedding ring he bought her. tucked away in a box unworn as it should have always been. i do not want to become a mother. a role i don’t have enough of myself to give to. afraid i would be selfish like my nana. selfish unlike my own mother. my half sister who i have never met only ever spoken to online has a child. i don’t think my nana ever really wanted to be a mother. who could blame her. for christmas my mother buys me gold hoop earrings like my nana would wear. hers were stolen by the man she lived with when she died. she loved big gaudy jewelry like i do but didn’t while she was alive. a ghost within me. i wear my nana’s necklace when i graduate both times and hope it means something. a small pearl pressed into gold. when the news of my nana’s death reaches my mother i am sitting at the kitchen table. the phone rings and then a scream. when my nana dies she dies alone. alone in the emergency room of a stupid hospital. she drives herself there. she tells them she thinks she’s having a heart attack. they hand her paperwork to complete. she is in pain. she is alone. and she dies. my nana dies alone in the emergency room waiting area. crumpled over onto one of those wooden chairs with cracking vinyl seats. i try to imagine her death but it is too much. unwordable thoughts. unbearable.
fern. dies. and i retreat often to my family’s camp on a lake. a place as a child i hated. the mosquitos and wolf spiders hovering around. the dead black bear skun and hung over the front door. its mouth open in a forever snarl. the favoritism dished towards my older brother by my grandparents on my father’s side. the disdain towards me. now i am old enough not to care whose love is unavailable. or at least i’m old enough to tell myself that. the log camp my father’s parents built by hand over the course of years. the water calmed into clearness no slime coating the rocked bottom. i make the two hour trek north to lay on a rocking paddleboard drinking a beer. the sun soaks and reflects off the wavering water and i think of my old dog who would paddleboard with me. her lithe body strong even in her old age seated in the front like a weathered sea captain. catching horseflies in mouth nimbly without tipping the board. i think of her. of her silent death the summer before. a death i learn of through social media. a goodbye stolen from possibility. i will have my goodbye for her in me forever. the waves mute crash into the stoney shoreline. my father grills meat on the wrap around porch. wet bathing suits hang dripping from the line. as a child i convince myself that i will run into a mountain lion here. near the blueberry bush at the bend of the camp side. at the little bridge that sits over a frog filled bog. i venture through these woods alone or with my first dog basil with the accepted fate that this beast will meet me there at some point in time. my childhood musings feeling more like predicted visions. and yet i still would go. eat the berries. sit on my favorite tree stump seat. and wait for the animal to find me. my back turned to its gaze.
in the summer we go walking around the side streets of a small town. i walk faster when i’m not alone. large strides and a stop by the river. i ask my partner if he remembers doughboys. he remembers them as fried dough. usually we are on the same tightrope i say. but not always. i think of the differences between us. i think of the days spent at a little beach as a child. the doughboys sold there. the blackflies and fish in the shallow water. i have spent too much time in water for someone who cannot swim. when i see a young girl with her mother i miss being a child. but only then. my whole life i have found myself ugly. which is hard to understand as a child. which is still hard to understand now. but less so. bucked out front teeth that had to be tamed with braces. a gap that the dentist couldn’t get to close the whole way. large forehead. massive thighs. scar on face under my left eye. too small tits. broken now fake front tooth. my tooth breaks when my sister hits me in the face with a snowmobile helmet. and again when a girl drunkenly kisses me in a bar. i think of all the people i’ve kissed and didn’t want to. who i let kiss me because they were there. i think of all the threesomes i’ve been offered. the amount of friends who have wanted to fuck me. once i tell my mother about the offers. and she says it’s because i look like the kind of person who would have a threesome. and i’m not sure what she means. and i have before but not in years. and those times were no more exciting than fucking one person. i prefer something closer. i am angry because i do not believe i’ve been loved in all the ways i deserve. a belief inherited from my mother. like i inherited her nose. and maybe it doesn’t matter. but there are these things that i cannot let go.
when i cross my street. my short slow one way. i picture fern in the moment before. and i look both ways. and i don’t know what to say about that summer other than i hate that fern is gone. i hate that she has died. i hate that they are dead.
my window sills are lined with empty beer cans and bottles of vitamin waters. dead flowers and dying succulents. i try to stop drinking again in the summer and again in all the other seasons. i make it months at tops before i sink back into the dirt of habits. the desire passes down my family like a jacob's ladder toy like blue eyes that hopscotch across my siblings. my eyes are blue but not like my father’s. mine more dulled down by the eyes of a grandfather i met once on his deathbed. a grey blue. a grey body on its last day. a childlike curiosity to meet him. a first and a last at the same moment. as a child i was disgusted with my own lack of feeling while seated there at the hospital. i was disgusted with my own lack. i did not speak to him. a seat in the visitor's chair and a silent mouth. the stories of his abuse and hatred told through my mother’s mouth. an echo of her sad childhood. he was every man i have grown to hate. to fear. the people of my family are still mysteries to me. obscurities kept alive through the retellings. like ghosts the stories linger around me. and i repeat them to myself again and again.
Morghen Tidd (she/her) is a writer from Maine who is interested in writing narratives that mix the mundane with the grotesque through exploring the experiences of girls. She received her MA in English from the University of Maine and now she is floating through space. She has work forthcoming in Heavy Feather Review. Find her on Twitter and Instagram: @spookymorghen