My Head is Buried

Andrea Kneeland

A seagull slicked with oil is screaming. It collapses to its side, dragging a sodden wing behind. The frame cuts to a close-up of a different type of water bird, this one cupped in a large, white gloved hand. Another gloved hand enters the frame, turns the brown bird's greasy black head to the side and pries open the tiny eyelid. A shiny black pebble the size and shape of an eyeball bubbles out. Gloved fingers squeeze and the bubble escapes from the socket. I can't hear the newscaster's narration. Men in white suits are crawling toward rocky nests filled with eggs. The eggs are dripping with bunker oil, which means that they are smothered in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. PAH is found in meteors, comets, incense, tobacco, roasted peanuts and gasoline. It is also a hypothesized constituent of the primordial sea. Scientists have suggested that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons played a vital role in the formation of ribonucleic acid-based life, the precursor to deoxyribonucleic acid-based life. PAH is a hypothetical God, inasmuch as God may have created life, and PAH may have paved the way for DNA, which builds each cell in each body we think of as living. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons can cause: cataracts; vomitting; kidney damage; jaundice; nausea; liver damage; eye irritation; cancer; the breakdown of red blood cells. No matter how many men in white suits surround those blackened nests, the eggs will never hatch.

My cousin's wife has removed her dress. She is wearing a difficult-looking bra and a frothy white petticoat. The frothy consistency of the petticoat is an illusion; against the skin, it feels like miniature chicken wire. I twist the fabric between my fingers, then rub it against my arm, burying my hand between the layers. Beneath the froth, I can see the skin of my arm blooming red in distressed patches. Poppies were never as beautiful. I want to bury my face there, wrap my head beneath the angry shroud of fabric, rub my lips against the wiry nylon until my mouth is frayed raw as a noose.

Instead, I slip my sandals off and slide my feet up onto the couch. They inch themselves beneath the layers of her under-skirt. My toes are burrowing beneath her thighs. Her thighs are like eiderdown wrapped in sandpaper. I want to bury my face there.

I have forgotten about my cousin. I want to forget about my cousin but then, as I am rubbing my feet to near bleeding, straining for the softness of her thighs, I feel his hands clasp my head and turn it to the side. My body twists, my eyes scan the television screen, which is filled no longer with birds, but with pinkish red meat. He continues to twist my head, until I am facing downward, my eyes perpendicular to my shoulders. The pinkish meat, bloody and butchered, I am trying to contextualize. War? Dismemberment? Cooking tips? Traffic accident? I don't know what I saw. My right foot encounters an absence of fabric and slips itself between the bride's perfect thighs. My head is buried in my cousin's lap. His hand clasps my neck, presses down.