No Guests Allowed
When the doorbell rings, I wear a mask and watch from the window. I do not open the door.
I do not go to the hairdresser. The drycleaners. The grocery store. Bars. Restaurants. My sister’s.
It has been eight months since I snuggled in an old friend’s arms.
I have not seen my daughter in eleven months, my son in three, my mother in over a year.
I see the new baby only on WhatsApp.
I see doctors on telehealth.
I double-mask for a blood test.
Did you know that if you wear latex gloves, the automatic sanitizer dispenser won’t work?
No one comes into our house.
A mouse comes into our kitchen, shits under the sink, leaves a half-eaten cherry tomato on the counter.
We sprinkle cayenne and cloves on the counters and in the cabinets, diffuse peppermint oil. Mouse bites into the bag of zaatar I had left on the dining room table. Not the dining room. It has crossed the line. I hate it.
Mouse eats the peanut butter off the traps, unscathed.
Kill it, I say to Husband.
It should know that no guests are allowed.
We wait and see. Talk about Mouse.
We order six traps, the humane kind. With Rice Krispies, specially ordered for Mouse.
Mouse is so little, so cute, Husband says.
He drives Mouse to the park. Wants to show me the video he took of Mouse running to freedom. I say no.
We still talk about Mouse. I am relieved it’s gone. Also sorry the house is quiet again.
Three weeks later, Squirrel lands at the bottom of our fireplace.
When I was seven, I flushed the horizon down the toilet.
No one in the class of second graders knew the answer to our teacher’s question – What is the horizon? – including me. I had been star pupil at Scuola Elementare Antonietta Aldisio, but now Signorina Violini drew the symbol of my failure on the page in front of me in thick red pencil. A zero cut across by a line. Zero tagliato.
The horizon is the line that…. The horizon is… The horizon….
I repeated this mea culpa in my head as I walked home, oblivious to the chatter of my classmates.
The horizon had eluded me.
I told no one. Not my parents, not my older sister, not my little brother. I locked myself in the bathroom while my mother stirred tomato sauce and tasted spaghetti (we did not like al dente). Amidst the sounds of chairs pulled and dragged, spoons and forks clinking, water poured into glasses from the Nutella set my mother had collected, I tore the guilty page from my schoolbook, my pristine sussisdiario that did not have one ear, one stain. Every other page boasted the highest grades and words of praise scribbled by the same teacher who had shamed me.
I wept quietly as I dropped the pile of confetti into the toilet. I watched it float, then pulled the chain.
Edvige Giunta is the author of Writing with an Accent and co-editor of several anthologies, including Talking to the Girls: Intimate and Political Essays on the Triangle Fire (New Village Press, forthcoming).
Her memoir, flash, fiction, and poetry have appeared in anthologies and in magazines such as Creative Nonfiction, Assay, Barrow Street, Mutha Magazine, Fictive Dream. The Citron Review, Jellyfish Review, and are forthcoming in December, Pithead Chapel, Paris Lit Up, and Paterson Literary Review.