Emails from the Staybridge Suites Anaheim

Dear Sylvia,

It’s really rotten stuff, what you’re trying to do. I don’t know where you get off singing Janie this sob story about the dirty war you think I’m fighting against you, making her believe it’s you who needs rescuing from me. Christ, Sylv. You might permit me to point out (even putting aside the gaping holes in your tragic narrative) that a thirteen-year-old is not an international relief organization. And that this one, in fact, happens to be your daughter. Our daughter.

On a separate note, though I despise you more in this moment than I ever thought possible, I’d really like to come home. Thoughts?

Querida Marta,

Say it with me: I’m useless. A dog, a rat, a louse. From where you’re sitting, no doubt staring at these words with your eyes smoldering like hot little coals, you could compare me with any number of sub-human creatures. With dirt, even — oh, with the scum of the planet itself. Marta, I know this.

Because I told you we’d run, eclipse our sordid little lives in a flash of brilliance, that the car would be waiting to take us to LAX and then to Monaco, the Maldives, the powdery white sands of Malaysia. I’m telling you, mi tierra, I know. And I wasn’t lying about wanting it. I wanted it to be true!

Now every time I see the reflection of my coward’s face in the back of a spoon, I feel the urge to spit on it. So of course you’re right to loathe me. I loathe me too.

Dear Janie,

Happy birthday, darling. I’m sorry I can’t be there, and I hope you relish the book of poems I sent — Ferlinghetti, your favorite, isn’t it?

Someday we’ll go to Coney Island together, and you’ll see exactly what he meant as you gaze out across the park from the tippity-top of the Cyclone, just seconds before its jarring and jolting metal hurtles you screaming toward the ground below and the hot-dog vendors with their steaming snacks and the laughing children tugging on their fathers’ shorts. You’ll see.

Anyway, I wish you’d write. You might throw your Pops a bone.

Querida Marta,

Words cannot express how vexed I am to hear that Sylvia has fired you. But on the other hand, mi vida, think about how much better you deserve. You’re a gem, a star, the apex of perfection! Truly, you deserve better than all of us — or certainly better than Sylv and me. (Janie is, admittedly, another story.)

Dear Sylvia,

Let me try to imagine what you’re thinking right now. You’re thinking that your silence is some sort of feminist statement, that somehow you’re making the world safer for blustery career-women everywhere by putting the bitter throbbing of your own wounds above the happiness of your entire family in all its hurting, bleeding misery.

Well, be that as it may, let’s just get a few things straight.

First, a real feminist wouldn’t have been caught dead in that sorority at USC. Shopping and stilettos and sister-on-sister infighting — I remember what it was like when we first met.

And secondly, you’re a bitch.

Querida Marta,

I know that I can’t claim the right to press you, but please — have you really, truly thought about this? I’ve come to my senses, mi amor, and everything we’ve ever wanted could be ours. The cottage within earshot of the ocean’s roar, the midnight confessions of our darkest secrets, the knowing glances filled with salty sweat and sex. How can you say no?

Really, it’s cruel of you to accuse me of speaking in empty clichés when you must see how crazy I am about you. I can’t believe you’re in your right mind as you write these replies.

Dear Janie,

Your mother will try to say I never loved either of you — that if I had, I wouldn’t have done what I have. Don’t listen. What you have to understand is this: I entered a universe of bare, cherished beauty when I first lay your quivering body across my chest as it rose and fell. I had no idea until that moment how your wails would color everything. My ambition and my nightmares, my laughter, my little lies. And now at night I lie awake and alone and think of how your mother might poison you against my love. Don’t listen to her, Janie. Don’t listen!



In our carnivorous garden in the country, a slew of beehives bobbed and glowed sensually in the dark, buzzing like tiny floating homes. The hives haunted the Alabama air, dripped honey onto grass.

I tried everything to get that honey out of my hair.

I was eleven years old the summer the honey was its most irresistible. A skinny girl, no training bra. My teeth were splattered potato chips in pink gums.

Etta and I had spent the afternoon chasing tadpoles at the reservoir. We climbed trees in early evening preparing for sunset fireflies and the taffy leaves slickened to my feet and forearms. When I slipped, I clutched  a fat hive on my way down. We landed on a mushroom colony, me and the fragments of the hive in my lap like pieces of a broken pumpkin.

Through the backdoor, I snuck up to the bathroom where I scrubbed my body clean, but the honey had already half-dried in my hair, strands like cold, sticky spaghetti. I tried peanut butter, chewing gum. I moved through Venus flytraps, shook their trunks for nectar, where they flourished like sunflowers at the side of the house.

My mother caught me. She bent me over the couch with my pants around my ankles and paddled  me.

So I tried a blow dryer in the bathtub.

In college, I let a boyfriend ejaculate in my hair. I slathered brownie batter, warm cake, and boysenberry sauce. I visited a woman with cheeks like crushed roses. She performed hot ceremonies on me in a pool. I even went to the bathhouse where an old crow asked me if I was brain dead. You have to be brain dead, it cawed. I sought the company of lice, lye, and sun blisters from a magnifying glass. I tried deer’s blood. I threw money at it. I threw hands into the air.

After college, when I returned to the hives, wiser, wearing a tank top sweat-soaked from the muggy air, I crept around the honeyed bend, away from the warm lit windows of my mother’s kitchen where strangers still ate oatmeal at midnight.

The hives were as I remembered them, unevenly strung, glowing in the bushy trees above blue-green grass. A busy community of bees flew in and out of the hives, darting, swaying like drunks. In moments, a plump, hairy bee quivered in circles around the tip of my nose, licking its legs. I crossed my eyes then smiled and almost coaxed it to sting me.



p style=”text-align: justify;”>Melissa Ross is a poet and fiction writer of absurd realism in Denver, Colorado. She is currently working on her first novel, an absurdist’s predictions for the American working class.  For more writing, photography, and the reliving of childhood humiliations, she updates her blog at least once a week: