Melissa Ferrone

Creative Nonfiction

Melissa Ferrone is currently an MFA student at West Virginia University with a focus in Creative Nonfiction. She also received her Bachelor’s in English at West Virginia University. Her greatest infatuation lies in the brief nonfiction essays that allow her to tightly pack a moment with images and sensations. He work has been published in Brevity and is forthcoming in The Fourth River.

Blue Ridge Talk

Mother, this is way-out-back campfire talk. This is through-the-smoke campfire talk. This is the beat-beating of bats through the canopy—their sonar song. Much like the redemption Bob Marley wailed through the record player when I was five: dancing on Dad’s feet, my toes on his, my body reaching.

I’m not afraid of monsters, Mother, just the lingering ghosts. The dresser in my bedroom forms the dark figure of my rapist in the middle of every night. This is not like when I was a child. This is not the boogey man under the bed, the jabberwocky in the closet.

This is fear like when you told me butterflies were angels and I found one dead against the poppies in the backyard. This is the melody of the broken-winged butterfly still against the blood red of the petals. This is the no-sound of its body lifted by the wind and carried into the yard. I could not find it when you asked to see, only showed you orange powder on uplifted palms.

Mother, this is the never-enough campfire talk, the always-going-going-going campfire talk. This is earth on our lips, ash on our feet. Telling you my rapist tasted like mud and salt. This is last year’s November: the court removed him in handcuffs and a quiet police cruiser. This is the air that day. That heavy, heavy air lowered onto our heads that rained all afternoon.

This is the run-off talk, the rainwater-drinking-talk. It sounds like children whispering about devils in the belly of the Rappahannock. The dry days we let our feet hang in its early autumn tide. It is Dad yelling Only knee deep! before I take the plunge. This is beyond-knee-deep talk.

By this campfire with this talk, this down-on-your-luck talk. Spread my legs and look for yourself. I can still feel him there sometimes, clawing, throbbing. It has purpled down there. The scars: raised blotches of soft pink. Like flowers, you would say—like the rhododendrons on the riverside in June. There were sycamores along the water too, Mother. This is their bodies bowed for a break in the foliage. This is their mottled bark peeling. Scaled, like the scabs on my body.

Really, this is almost-talk. The campfire is darkening and our mouths have not opened to taste each other’s sound. Mother, this is the sense of the tadpoles we couldn’t catch, the dark ones we called lurkers. They fled through our fingers faster than the water, leaving mud in our lifelines. This is me, starting to talk, tensing my larynx—breathe.

The no-talk campfire talk takes us in my pause and we say goodnight. We fold into our separate sleeping sacks. We do not face each other. We say goodnight again, and hope to God in the morning we will remember what it was we wanted to say.

The mother-daughter relationship is something that is very sacred and, sometimes, indescribable. You could almost call it tidal: constantly pushing and pulling but still kissing the shoreline and moving together as one. After I was raped, more than just my world and my life were drastically affected. My mother, I think, may have felt equal parts violated, and equal parts responsible. My mother is a protector, you see. Anything that happens to her babies results in a visceral response.

This essay tackles the unspoken pushing and pulling between me and my mother. This isn’t asking for the car keys, or admitting that I drank the last of the milk and left the empty carton in the refrigerator. This scene is from the first weekend we really discussed the rape, not even two weeks after the rape had occurred. This essay is trying to show the need for comfort from both my mother and me, the rage of the moment met with a calming. Pushing and pulling against one another. Trying to discuss rape and the bruises hiding underneath my clothes without saying the words.