Washington Latin Public Charter School
Shannon was fifty-two, divorced, and recently she had begun to feel a lump the size and weight of a mango in the cavity of her chest.
She thought it could be cancer. Or her heart could have been displaced somehow, although this lump didn’t have a throb or beat of its own. Or maybe it was a symptom of the menopause, which had already brought her migraines, hot flashes, and a sticky dryness to her skin. Sitting in her kitchen with steam from the tea kettle unfolding into the room’s silent corners, an empty birdcage blinking at her from the wall, she was acutely aware of the hard shell of herself, her body a husk within which this lump swung eerily, like a pendulum. The lump was awkwardly heavy and required enough inward momentum to make her a little top heavy, as it was just beneath where her breasts had been.
He had taken them—her breasts, that is—after the divorce. Reached his hands over her while she slept and pulled them like soap bubbles from her skin; she watched him hold them as if they were stones in the palms of his hands. She watched how joylessly he held and looked down at them and she wished more than anything, more than wrinkle erasure and winning the lottery, that he would cup her breasts with tenderness and seal them gently into his pockets before he walked away for the last time.
That night Shannon was suddenly exhausted, long before the sky had even begun to darken. She lay on the left side of the bed she’d slept in for thirty years and felt the mango-sized lump within her sink with eerie slowness, from her chest to her back. From the kitchen she heard the echo of a bird’s trill and thought of the empty birdcage, her husband’s hands smoothing feathers back into place. His smile freckled with the sunlight on their new back porch.
Shannon awoke abruptly in the time of night in which darkness is impenetrable and tremulous. She lay motionless, a little afraid and perfectly aware that she was in the periphery of a presence in her room.
She could not see him, but she heard him approach, his feet large yet well-proportioned, so that his step was not particularly loud. She could hear him breathing, his inhale always two and a half seconds. He was standing above her.
Within her, the mango-sized lump floated toward the top of her chest, pressing against her ribcage, its slick weight making her front feel oddly separate from her back
She could not see him but she felt with certainty that he was reaching for her, and that he could not hurt her.
Gently, his hands slipped into her chest and closed around the mango-sized lump. She felt it slip from her skin, felt her heartbeat in her neck once more, felt her body settle down toward the center of her mattress.
Mango is a dance between sparsity and complexity. The length of the piece and the compact descriptions mask the deep, underlying currents about the human reaction to loss, the inability to let go, and the concept of ownership over another. The wonderful weirdness gives the reader just enough, and leaves them hungry for more.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chloe Cattaneo wrote her piece, Mango, as a senior at Washington Latin Public Charter School in Washington D.C. Chloe has just begun her first year as a Creative Writing major at Oberlin College. She would like to thank her teacher, Colleen, for inspiring and assisting her on her piece.