Season 2, Episode 022: How Does Your Garden Grow

season 2 of raconteuse radio

Guilliean reads her short story of the same name. Stream it and read along with the text!

Music: Strange Lullaby from ZapSplat.

My name wasn’t always Mary. A Biblical name, the cross that we bear that is entwined with that female epithet, the feminine sanguinity that spills with every moon’s phase. It was gifted to me. I don’t know where it begins. It always was. I’m unsure of my real name. So many years have passed, and I haven’t found a reason to call myself anything other than Mary. I am Mary. My tombstone will bear the name Mary, for the Mary before and the Mary after. The virgin and the whore. I had dreams of being more. I suppose I was marked as Cain’s people the moment I was born. Mother said I was born with a black heart.

I followed my older sisters everywhere. They protected me from ghosts, and I killed spiders for them. They told me I could be anything I wanted to be, even if Mother and Papa said I couldn’t. One night, they dared me to follow them into the bathroom. My eldest sister flicked the water on the mirror. They told me to say “Bloody Mary” three times. I said the cursed phrase, and a woman appeared. She stared deep into my soul and reached for me. I reached for her hand. It felt wrong, but it felt good too. I felt her sew herself into my spirit, rippling across my skin in an illicit dance. My sisters’ icebox screams rang in my ears.

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I turned around to see where my sisters had gone. They were not there. I cried myself to sleep. When I woke up, I began to walk. I wasn’t hungry. I had no need to drink. I attempted to keep time, but there was no point. I did not age. Days, months, years may have passed, but time became inconsequential. I built a house, one with a grand staircase near the front door and tile floors and gas lamps. I built it like the houses I saw in the museums we visited. I read all the books I could get my hands on. I put my dolls where I wanted them. I grew a garden with hedges and sunflowers and a tire swing nearby. It was marvelous.

I realized I bore the curse of Mary when I felt an invisible hook grab my belly button, pulling my body through the ether. It was to a mirror. I opened my eyes wide and pounded my fists on the looking glass at the people on the other side. They screamed at my unkempt appearance and ran away. They were not worthy. The hook pulled me all over the world, the universe even. I could see the people changing, the fashions that came into vogue, the tongues they spoke. I thought about my circumstances and knew I had to find someone with a heart as black as mine.

There is another Mary out there to take my place. There must be. That’s how this curse worked, right? They had to take over for me since I took over for the other Mary. At least, that’s what I told myself. What I’ll continue to tell myself as I soldier on.

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Guilliean Pacheco (she/her) is a writer and editor of Filipino heritage and the host of the City of Writers podcast. Her work has appeared in TechTarget, Nevada Humanities, and Helen: A Literary Magazine. She has an M.F.A. in Writing from the University of San Francisco and is an Anaphora Arts poetry fellow. She’s a misplaced California girl who lives in Las Vegas normally, if one could call living there normal, on Southern Paiute land. Follow her on Twitter.

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