Tag Archives: Ecotone

“Ecotone” – Fiction by Chelsea Laine Wells

A Bear in a Moon Night – Niko Pirosmani, 1913

The grand finale of our Fall 2017 issue is “Ecotone,” Chelsea Laine Wells’ haunting & heartbreaking story of a young woman who feels “the edge of what she wants fitted close and suffocating against the edge of what she has.”

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SHE THROWS UP IN THE MOTEL BATHROOM with the light off so the crack in the toilet and the constellation of toothpaste spit on the mirror are hidden. Then she wafts out all slow languid like women in the movies stricken with love or fever, and drapes her body over the bed. Breathes. Flutter of the eyelids. Imagine what it looks like. Looks glamorous. Beleaguered by life. Like the bathroom, she is better with less light. Everything here is better with less light. The room is small and dirty but the bad details fade to nothing in the yellow bedside lamp glow.

She loves to throw up. The ritual of it, the euphoria of emptying, like turning back time. Redemption. You can change yourself and become new, if you reach far enough into yourself, turn inside out. After there is the fever of ache that comes with deprivation and physical strain and that too is a relief. Something to sink into and grow still inside of, sainted by sacrifice. Holy holy. Stomach flat under the fat and mouth sour. She lies moored in the forever inescapable horror of her body, pacified for now, stewing in heavy heartbeat bodyheat. She thinks of the throwing up and the reverse communion of it and then the cartoonish juvenile words boys have for it. Calling the dinosaurs on the big white phone. What does this mean? Worshipping at the porcelain God. She prefers that, but they say it with a backwards twist of sarcasm that denigrates the ritual. The toilet is not really godlike. Worship implies profanity. Everything pure must touch edges with impurity and in that lose meaning and significance.

Ecotone. This is the term for the point of contact between the natural world and the manmade one. She turns this word like a warmed coin in her fingers. Like the border between what is sacred and what is embarrassing and corrupted. Like the border between the holiness of purging and the ugly reality of vomit in a toilet. Even her internal use of the word ecotone embodies this idea – knowing this beautiful word, but in an unfortunate way as opposed to from a smart book she’d never read or a sophisticated conversation she’d never had. She knows it from a television show she watched at a birthday party she wasn’t really invited to, but overheard about, and then was reluctantly included in, and she went knowing she wasn’t wanted there but somehow her self-awareness did not extend to a behavior that prevented social pain. This was another ecotone. Understanding herself and her frailties with the separateness of a child you cared for and looked down on, but not possessing the ability to change anything.

Being here is beautiful. She is the one he chose to come with him, in spite of all her sickness and flaws, her body that stubbornly persists in a gelatinous layer of fat no matter how much she purges. This body, big and squared off, round broad shoulders, thick jaw. She isn’t pretty. But he looks past it and he touches her like she is small and sometimes she feels it, the smallness that might exist within her if she was able to carve herself physically away as strategically as meat for consumption. This is an ecotone of self, the way he makes her feel with his hands and mouth and body, rubbing itself sore against her offensive corporeal reality. His worship, the sacredness. Her body, the vomit in the toilet. Pure against impure.

Right now he is out getting something, which is how she was able to throw up. He would be mad, she thinks instinctively, for her to waste food. They don’t have much. They ran so fast and immediate. No time to think. Not that she would have arrived at any other conclusion, had she been given time to think, had the question been asked of her. There was nothing to stay for.

Her eyes wander up from the bleached light of old television shows to the painting above. It is a forest, a bear, dark colors and blunt forms. Unbeautiful, inelegant. A rough ugly version of something meant by design to be lovely. Girls are meant to be lovely, and loved. Nature is meant to be lovely. She, like this painting, is a crude representation. She wonders about the artist, if he thought the painting was good, if it looked different in his mind than it did on the canvas, from the outside. Ecotone: the border where your biased perception and understanding met with unforgiving reality. The border where what you wanted met with what was. Continue reading “Ecotone” – Fiction by Chelsea Laine Wells

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