That’s what they told us.

Abandon ships. The dead flies on the windowsill didn’t make it. Spent most of their abbreviated lives trying to get out. Trapped. The ledge–brushed with latex gloss–paints a ghost memory of a small white coffin with simple steel hinges. Can’t ever forget that oblong box–a silent pearl rolling down the aisle with Jesus waiting at the other end. That’s what they told us. Eileen and leukemia were the names and things she was born with.

She remembered Eileen’s angel hair pasta falling out piece by piece. Those sweet snow-set blue eyes fading to blanched water. Hair and eyes disappearing away with school visits until they stopped all together, same as the flies trying to break though the screen to reach heaven. She wished she could’ve shared her brown mop top with the pale yellowed girl. None of the students were fortunate enough to love Eileen. She was a wisp on a wing not meant to flutter on earth. That’s what they told us.

At tea parties, Eileen might have adored her pink eye patch. She would have told Eileen the pink eye patch didn’t bother her half as much as the clear plastic gloves. An awful rash had settled between her fingers that year. So much time spent itching her knuckles on the carpet until a few fingernails fell off. Gloves and cream. That’s what they told us. They couldn’t fix Eileen. They couldn’t fix a finger rash.

She hoped no one was laughing at her pink eye patch or plastic gloves. Eileen would have understood had they ever had the chance to play. The pink eye patch didn’t fix the astigmatism. The gloves made her hands sweat in the summer. Today, she wears glasses sometimes wondering if a pink eye patch would make an interesting accessory. The finger rash is long gone but since hellacious fourth grade, pinky and ring fingernails grow at a ridiculous rate. Flies will arrive and die attempting to get out. Flies are not sweet and beautiful like butterflies. When you see a butterfly’s wings flutter, it means a spirit is visiting. That’s what they told us.

It has been over forty years since that beautiful, golden-haired child passed from earth. Her little white coffin dug a permanent image into my chest. As for the flies, they will continue dying on my windowsills until I find screen doors for the basement studio. The pink eye patch and plastic gloves, well, sometimes we are granted small challenges to help us grow. As is the way of life for us, there were a few more challenges after that. I suppose I should be grateful. Challenges help us grow into good and decent folk.

That’s what they told us.

Gallean with ragdoll

Gallean with ragdoll

this little character affectionately named Gallean makes appearances from time to time
a sign that you’re growing creatively is when drawing cute is not so horrible, especially when you mostly enjoy creating beastly critters with blood-filled gums


10 thoughts on “That’s what they told us.

  1. Beautiful work AnnMarie! How is life treating you today? I hope very well. I haven’t been doing so well I ate like 3 glazed donuts last night that skyrocketed my sugars to new heights ahh. I walked from 3am to 4am to get some of the sugar down. Dangerous to be out that time of night. I called my pdoc told him I need a med increase or med change. This can’t be left going I oveat from anxiety, stress and inability to sleep. AnnMarie=Number One! Woo hoo!


    • Georgiann,
      I remember you have had great loss in your life.
      You are amazing to me. What you are able to create and how you maintain such a positive way about your words and your art.
      I am so very sorry you have this loss in your life. No one deserves to ever grieve a child. And your husband too.
      You are a person to emulate and a heart to hold dear, my friend.


  2. AM Roselli, you are quite “attached” (in reference to your new subhead, which I like) to exquisite writing. Okay, so here’s what I love about this piece: it is creatively/artfully made (the recurrence of “that’s what they told us” is a beaut of a line echoing a deeper meaning and longing) but this narrative also “feels” so authentic–this is real drama filtered through the prism of years, of life lived, of changes endured. I like this direction very, very much.

    And okay, so I have to say this too: my fav gal, Gallean–looking at this wonderful drawing of her makes me tear up, draws out well-wrought emotions. This little girl with her ragdoll is tender, yes, but there is an inherent sadness as well. This drawing is such that it draws me in, makes me want to look at it and keep looking at it–even though it’s the sadness of the girl and her doll that stirs me, something about their relationship, I think. It’s a “good,” human, loving kind of sadness I feel–and that, it seems to me anyway, is what art ought to do: ought to make us feel more human, ought to remind us we are human. Love it, AM, truly.


    • Hi there, DS
      This one hit me while doing laundry of all things if you can believe it. I was peering in the windowsill there and the dead flies coming up through the basement studio – I leave the Bilcos wide open as much as I can and don’t you know those damn flies keep trying to watch tv – they certainly aren’t helping with the laundry;)
      I think of Eileen now and again – her sweet face popped in my head with the white sill connection and this sort of just came together
      I wasn’t sure it it was a bit confusing keeping the ‘narrator’ in and out
      I so appreciate your comment here, as I’ve said before and will continue to say, these types of remarks help me understand what the hell it is I’m doing


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