Fiction from Jessica June Rowe
I watch my grandmother age backward. Black finds its way into her brittle grey ends and seeps upward, her hair growing fuller, hiding the speckled patches of her scalp. Her skin smooths and thickens; no more bruises and purple-pinched veins. She leaves indents in the armrests when she pushes out of her wheelchair. When the window won’t open she breaks the glass with her IV stand. It’s a four-story fall to the ground, but she pilots her hospital gown like a wingsuit, gliding down in slow, shrinking circles. She lands in a roll that turns into a crawl. It feels like it all happens in a blink; her hair is short again, dark wisps on her young head, and her hands and knees must be so soft, must be burning on the hot sidewalk. A woman walking out of the fertility clinic spots my grandmother, all alone in the hospital courtyard, and rushes over. She picks my grandmother up, wrapping her in the hospital gown turned wingsuit turned swaddling blanket. The woman looks around in confusion, left, right, then up. I pull away from the window. When no one appears, the woman holds her tighter and sniffs, inhaling the scent of her newborn skin, fighting off her own tears. It must tickle; my grandmother laughs. I’m still hidden out of sight, but through the broken glass I can still see her: a thousand fractal versions of her, the courtyard, the blanket, the hospital room, the woman, myself. I see the woman’s confusion turn to wonder to determination and, after a moment of hesitation, she sprints toward the parking garage. I lean out back out the window to watch her run. From over the woman’s shoulder, my grandmother takes her thumb out of her mouth to wave goodbye.
Jessica June Rowe is an author, playwright, editor, and perpetual daydreamer. She is on the Editorial Board of Exposition Review and has served as both Editor-in-Chief and Fiction Editor. A Best of the Net nominee, her own fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Gigantic Sequins, Pidgeonholes, Timber Journal, and Noble/Gas Qtrly, while her short plays have been featured on multiple stages in Los Angeles. One of her poems is stamped into a sidewalk in Valencia, CA. She also really loves chai lattes. Find her on Twitter @willwrite4chai.