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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Mandala

 

by Angele Ellis

 

 

She is riding shotgun in her sister Teresa’s van, watching a Florida sunset cast red shadows over the beach as they drive toward a vegan restaurant Teresa likes, Mandala.  Once she watched Buddhist monks create mandalas out of multicolored sand, elaborate swirls that existed for a day before being swept away.

 

For years she protected her mandala, her relationship with Joseph—not Joseph of the cruel judgments and eyes like streaked blue marbles, but the college student she fell in love with—a soft handsome face preserved under glass on a shelf in Cincinnati, in what used to be her home.

 

Now Joseph is just another man, and she feels like just another animal in Teresa’s mobile veterinary office.  She jostles among white lab coats and instrument bags that give Teresa the power of life and death, and the shrink-wrapped shrouds and dense ash-filled boxes that once were beloved pets.  She has never had a pet.  Joseph hated animals, disliked anything more domestic than watching TV in a big chair with snacks at hand.  And she hates loss—she told Teresa, I want a tortoise or a parrot, something guaranteed to outlive me.

 

Teresa has outlived her own beauty, with her sunburned face and severe ponytail, her faded jeans and t-shirts, her buffalo sandals.  This makes Allegra feel better.  The plain sister, made plainer by illness and grief, wearing a pink bandana to cover the bald patches she creates in her sleep, waking to clumps of tumbleweed on her pillow.  The bandana makes her look more like a hippie—appropriate for Mandala.

 

When they were teenagers, Teresa had loose shining blonde hair—Rapunzel hair—and plastered the walls of her bedroom with singers and movie stars and guys cut from ads.  He blows me away, Teresa declared about whoever it was that month, that week, that moment.

 

He blows me away, he has blown me away, everything has been blown away.

 

Joseph still may have the flattering snapshot of the Allegra he loved in his wallet—crushed by credit cards and business cards, including the cards of women he has slept with.  Right now, Joseph may be fishing in that wallet for some other woman’s number, drinking beer and talking about filing divorce papers, or wondering whether he should wait for her to die and save him the trouble.

 

But as she and Teresa pull into Mandala, she spots Joseph standing under the restaurant’s neon sign, one hand clutching a multicolored bouquet, his blue marble eyes scanning the lot.  She looks over at Teresa, but Teresa is frowning, concentrated on parking.  When she looks back, the man is embracing a woman whose hair flows down her back like flame; his deceptive eyes are turned in her direction, but she knows he doesn’t see her.

 

There is so much sand, everywhere.  All she can think of is how thirsty she is, and how much she needs a glass of water.