by Stefani Kuo
She drank soup from the pot, that girl, gobbled up winter melon as if there had always been a marsupial stuck in her chest and who had never been one to know snow. Word on the street was that her mother had left in her the trunk of a rootless winter melon tree, forever hungering for the grasp of its seedlings, a trunk so withered through the generations of women before her time, Selmolina herself grew hunch-backed with the impregnation of desire.
Then one day, a decade after their mother had passed on, her sister returned, just like that, at the snap of a pot lid. Mel returned and turned the empty house into plasma, pushing her way back into the home like a parasitic gurgle of laugher. Selmolina sat by the pot curled around her belly the night Mel came home, each drop of a tear trying to will the claws in her belly to sleep, and every wail from the marsupial voice bemoaning her sister's ability to tame. Mel had grown up looking nothing like her father but had inherited all of his talents. He had a been a lion tamer in the travelling circus, a man they hardly ever saw and only ever heard the applause for, a father who taught but only through the voices of legends. Mel had fed herself as they grew up, devouring chunks of uncooked meat and still-rustling leaves; each insatiable breath Selmolina took Mel matched with the silence of her ability to tame. Mel laughed with her mouth wide open, and slept with her stomach concave sinking into the bed without a sound. Mel licked the sugar off her fingertips like the sun melting the stars she couldn't see, caught autumn leaves like soil yearning for grass, blossomed into the evening sky when the birds fly by, and spooned herself into the snow when the ice came around.
Selmolina dug her fingers into the space between her collarbone and her chest, sunk her palm into the space where the voices bellowed, each deepening shard of pain resonating with the perpetual heat she felt, the never-ending desire to will her desire away. She filled herself up with the wintering melon, the parching soup, filled herself up with the aluminum of the pot, the sturdiness of the metal ladle, filled herself up with the fire, the fuel, the black charredness of the stovetop, filled herself up with the room and the darkness, the silence and the bellowing heat, filled herself up until she could no longer see her toes anymore, could no longer hear anything except her own voice telling her to stop, no longer sense the plasmic space her sister had carved into the life she left. Selmolina did this until there were no words left on the street to call winter, or summer, or cold, or heat, or desire. She would walk out the backdoor the morning her sister left, take her metallic knees to the ground of the garden to lick the snow, and sometime in the generations she would never know, a little girl would run into the still-rustling leaves and untamed shadows and wonder at the tall, floating winter melon tree who had found the emptiness of a home.