Elizabeth Cheng | Art by Grace Lu
Petunia crumpled the unfinished bag of chips between her palms and stuffed it into the plastic trash can next to her desk, which was filling to the brim with other opened packages of food: a rotting microwavable lasagna and a half-eaten protein bar were visible. An unpleasant odor was starting to make its way through the room, but it wasn’t anything Petunia hadn’t encountered before.
There was a low sound emitting from the dirty bin, but like the cleanliness of her room, Petunia folded the thought into a neat package—almost organizing it onto a shelf in her brain—before tearing it to shreds, violently shoving and kicking the fragments out.
Purple Mommy was someone Petunia never wanted to see again. In fact, she didn’t want to see anyone again, but at this point, Purple Mommy was her only source of sanity. And insanity. Purple Mommy was everyone, but somehow also no one at all.
Petunia had already tried to remove every trace of Purple Mommy from her room. There were no violet footprints or lavender-colored stains, instead, it was the very atmosphere that Purple Mommy inhaled from, something from the root of living that had to be carefully extracted and forced away. For the piercing, bright plum eyes that halted Petunia’s every action weren’t going to retire. Purple Mommy was embedded into Petunia’s body—her stomach; inflicted into her life—her food.
The rumble was low, much too low, yet the sound that was becoming too familiar couldn’t be ignored. Petunia flopped onto her bed like so many times before, pressing her eyes and nose and mouth and ears tightly into the blanket, trying to numb herself. Anything to let her mind wander, or even suffer, instead of facing what she couldn’t.
Alas, Purple Mommy slowly weaved herself out of the debris, growing and filling in size until she nearly hit the ceiling. Semi-transparent, yet stronger than anything a human could imagine, Purple Mommy induced an hourly fight that was not only Petunia versus Purple Mommy, but also Petunia versus Petunia herself.
Petunia tried to shrink herself; once she had placed an index finger to the back of her throat, thinking that if everything inside her came out, there would be nothing left of her that had to face Purple Mommy. It didn’t work—it had never worked—but she tried again. The vomit was first bubbly like sparkling water, but it soon turned thick and gooey like flour glue. Petunia wanted to gauge her eyes out at the same time, rip the few strands of hair she had left off her head, or maybe peel her fingernails one by one until her hands were pink, raw, and tender, screaming in pain. She already had almost one eyeball in, one eyeball out, so she just kept clawing her face, kept lurching her throat, kept wanting to disappear, to get away from Purple Mommy, to die if it had to be so, because the only way to be free was to destruct herself so badly that she would never, ever be able to come back.
Petunia’s eyes were closed beneath a curtain of shuddering blonde hair. She held the tray of food from the hospital with pale, erratically twitching hands, unable to look at it.