The Ouroboros

by Bleriana Myftiu

He came to her in dreams. Night after night he told his mother he was dead. It was a dreadful thing to experience, especially since it was true. The night before he died she heard the cat meow from inside the armoire. Except that the cat had died years ago. It meowed until she could no longer stand it. Shaken, she knocked on his bedroom door, but he told her he was tired. The next morning when she brought him his coffee she discovered he had stopped breathing. I just knew, she said to the emergency responders. I knew that the cat was trying to tell me something but I never imagined it would be this. She became agitated, shook and fell. 

She had no choice but to call him, the boy’s father. Our son is spent, you have to help me, she said. He stayed calm, only a screaming shock in his mind and two days later he buried their son in the cemetery near Mount Dajti in the outskirts of Tirana. She didn’t go, took pills instead. In death he finally belonged to his father, her only and final gift. When she woke up at dawn she made a cup of Nescafé but spilled it on the blue carpet. The stain was in the shape of a butterfly, which she thought was a sign. 

Her whole life had been a desperate attempt in finding meaning, a fierce battle against solitude. She believed in the spiritual and the supernatural as long as she was the center of it all. Sometimes she relied on her horoscope to make decisions. There were ghosts everywhere, good, unless she upset them, in which case they walked through her while she slept, causing deep, dark circles under her eyes. 

Her beauty used to be unrivaled. She made men dizzy with desire and fed on their attention, giving very little in return. But when she found out she was pregnant she suddenly stopped caring about men, especially the boy’s father. After the boy was born, she enveloped him in her arms with no intention of ever letting go. His sadness was soothed with buttered breads and his anxieties with pills. Later when he grew into a young man she gave him more pills to stop asking about his father. 

For a few weeks after his death nothing happened, and in the silence of the apartment she heard her own heartbeat and panicked. She called the boy’s father. Was he willing to take her to their son’s grave? He was not. She sat on a chair in the kitchen and watched a trail of ants climb inside the sugar bowl on the table. They were whispering to each other about her. It was her fault, they were saying. With a sponge from the sink, she killed them all and poured the sugar down the drain. Then watched hours of YouTube videos, some of them in languages she didn’t understand. Her body became a receptor for noise, a bottomless cauldron of distractions. Bits and pieces of meaningless thoughts flew in and out of her head, she become an aviary of bad dreams. Someone had brought her two large bags of tangerines that she kept in the fridge. The rest of that week she only drank instant coffee and ate tangerines. 

Then it happened. The son came back to her during the first rain of the season. Outside her window, the poplar trees had dropped their leaves and she knew it was time to forgive him. She held her baby in the sterile hospital room. The cesarean wound burning in her belly. And him, the father of the boy, brought her flowers. But she refused and asked him to leave. He didn’t have the courage to fight her, the fury in her eyes, the spider, he thought, that she nurtured in her heart. Have it your way, he said and left. 

The son appeared again a week later. In his black school uniform, with a broken arm he asked his mother to call his father but she refused. He faded and a green snake appeared in his place. When the snake began eating its tail she screamed, afraid at first but then remembered what she’d read. Wasn’t it Jung who said that the Ouroboros kills itself and brings itself back to life? She called the boy’s father, but he didn’t answer. 

Weren’t they inseparable, mother and son? She found out while rummaging through his drawers. The discovery of the photograph made her incredibly sad, although she wasn’t surprised. He betrayed her and fell in love with a girl. If you ever leave me, she warned her son, I’ll kill myself. The boy said nothing. There was no calming her once she entered the dark room in her mind. The tone, the anger that unleashed, he also didn’t have the courage to fight her. She placed a Valium on his pillow before she went to bed. 

The last time the boy appeared he looked just like his father, grown. Had she refused to see the resemblance all these years? He stayed longer this time and split into many versions of himself, like Russian nesting dolls, surrounding her, small ones, big ones and they all joined hands. They asked their mother to dance. She was afraid, dark circles already forming under her eyes. He was a coward, your father, she finally said. He didn’t deserve you. The room where her son died was dark, only the milky light of the moon spilled in like a sickness. He loved other women, she continued. He needed that sort of validation from everyone. So I punished him, she finished. Sitting on the floor in the room where her son died, she waited for the ghosts to punish her.

Bleriana Myftiu is from Tirana, Albania. She’s obsessed with seahorses, death, and Vietnamese food. She resides in Santa Cruz, California with her husband, daughter, demanding schnauzer, and apathetic parakeet.
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