Poison Ivy by L. Mardirossian (Art by A. Amineva)

Louisa Mardirossian is a NYC-based producer, photographer, and writer, depending on the day you catch her. She’s submitted to us one of her self-portrait series.

I first met Pam on the school bus when I was five years old. I would sit alone and bury my face in a picture book, and she would plop herself next to me hugging her pet plant. Day-by-day, inch-by-inch, she closed the gap between our thighs. I’d crawl underneath the benches to escape her, but she’d always crawl in suit. The one ride when our knees finally grazed, as we pulled up to my house, she grabbed my face and said, “Your eyes are two perfect beansprouts.” Then she kissed me. It was just a quick peck, but it was enough make my body burn so hot I fogged her window-thick glasses. Before I knew it, I’d smacked the earth straight from her hand—a clay pot the size of her palm, that little bud just barely peaking out from the soil. Pam burst into tears as I crunched across the debris and ran for the door. She always sat alone after that day.

A few weeks later, Pam’s family moved and I didn’t hear from her for the next 25 years. I never forgot about our incident or the heartbroken look on her face—whether it was over me or the plant or both I wasn’t sure. In the rare moments I’d remember her, my throat would clog up.

The day that she called me I was laying in my bed at two in the afternoon pretending to write. I’d moved from our small suburban town to the shadowy land of promise and opportunity that was Gotham. I squished a spider on my pillow as the phone rang. I answered.

“It’s Poison,” her words dripped into me through the phone.
“Who?” I asked.
“You don’t remember.”
I frowned as I scratched at the leggy remnants that had been smeared on my pillow.
“Remind me.”
I picked and picked.
Suddenly a peach was lodged in the faulty garbage disposal that was my throat. I stopped picking.

I’m not sure what would have happened the day we met up if it hadn’t been for the little bean sprout I delicately carried into the cosmetic store. I’d tried to get a pot similar to the one I’d sent soaring when I smacked her fist. Over the phone she had asked to catch up. She said I could help her pick out a new shade of red. When people would ask me about my first kiss, I’d see shards of ceramic, but wouldn’t say so. This could be an opportunity to free myself of that. Plus, her voice doubled my heart rate. Maybe she had been a phone sex operator or a call girl—Poison Ivy. I didn’t ask.

I caught her scent before I saw her. Even in a store full of perfume, she’d managed to leave a distinct trail. I closed my eyes and let the garden lead me, lush and in full bloom.

When I opened them, I was inhaling her hair—it was thick like the kind of forest brush you’d have to machete your way out of. It had a sticky shine to it, like a giant cherry amber had been put through a pasta maker, and drizzled with honey. Her eyes were glued to my peace offering. She opened her mouth as if to speak, then stopped herself several times. Who had she been expecting? I should have shaved the beard.

Finally, she said, “You do remember,” as she cupped my face in her hand once again.

As we strolled through aisle three, smack in between the glosses and the plumpers, she told me she had planned to kill me with a kiss this afternoon. Examining her lips, I actually wished she would have. She said I could buy her a drink instead.

As I sipped my latte, Pam emptied a plant food packet into the water I’d gotten for her. Anyone else would have assumed it was an Emergen-C. I stared as she fully gripped the bottle and slowly shook it back and forth in the air. She saw my caffeine drinking as a cardinal sin considering the pain the Coffea had to endure in the bean harvest, but it was a crusade she was willing to forgo for now. Even vegetarians go out with meat eaters on occasion.

She spoke of that day on the bus. She told me something about the green in my eyes had made her feel some sort of way, like there was photosynthesis happening inside them. She told me all about the incident at the lab in college, and how it had mutated her. She talked about her passion for the eco-system and her dreams to destroy anyone who hurt it. She told me I’d surprised her. For the first time, she could see flora in animal eyes shining back at her.

“Why do I always poison my own thoughts?” she asked. It wasn’t a question for me to answer, and she didn’t expect me to. She rested her head in her hand, letting red strands spill onto the ring-stained wood, defeated.

I read that amber forms from fossilized tree resin, and usually contains remnants of plants and insects. Were there were dead bugs brewing and fauna blossoming from her brain? Maybe the mosquitoes were poisoning her mind—those filthy pests. I kept my hypothesis quiet and pictured myself getting tangled in her vines.

This was routine for us now. The city knew her as a toxic terrifying temptress, but to me, she was Pam. A new Pam, but a Pam nonetheless. To her, I was… not sure. We’d always meet in the darkest bars in the darkest corners of the darkest city—knees still touching.

“After all, my reality is just a reflection of perspective, and lately my perspective just looks so… itchy.” She spun an emerald vine that dangled from her neck around her yellow diamond finger as she mused. A living composition of carefully curated gems. I swirled my own fingers around the rim of my glass to keep from lightly scratching her. If I caressed the lip just right, maybe this cheap glass would sing. It didn’t.

“I just feel like I have control over everyone else’s minds but my own, you know?” My mind was telling me to bury my face in her chest and take the deepest breath my darkened lungs could stretch for. Was that her idea, or my own?

“Maybe it’s just the opposite. Maybe you have too much control over your own mind and it’s the lack of chaos that’s driving you crazy.” I took a long sip, startled by the sound of my own voice. I wasn’t usually doing much of the talking during our dates, or whatever they were. How had I even gotten there, yet again? I’d told myself last time would be the last time. Did her pheromones travel through phones? Whatever, I thought. Classic.

The one time I’d tried to kiss her she’d gracefully twisted out of it and told me she liked me too much to allow that. Her ruby lips twinkled at me now like they had then. I set crinkled cash on the table for the two of us and we walked out of the bar. As usual, she hadn’t touched her drink—the poor rye. But what about the poor moi—a pawn in time’s eternal joke, and it would never stop laughing at me.

The Gotham air was a special kind of warm this night. A perfect kind of petri dish temperature—not too hot, not too cold, just right for things to germinate. We stood there.

“I finally realize it’s not the sunlight that your beansprouts reflect—it’s the moon,” she said.

For the first time ever, I lit a cigarette in front of her and took a long drag. Poor Nicotiana.

“Maybe you should just kill yourself,” I said, as a plume of white smoke encased her. She silently opened and closed her mouth, searching for words, like the first time we’d re-met. I directed her gaze to our reflections in the dirty bar window. “Shatter the pot. Respire in the darkness for a while.”

She tilted her head as she examined herself in a darkened window. I couldn’t tell if in this moment she liked what she saw or not. She reached out her black opal nail and lightly tapped it against the reflection of her lips. Her sparkling ruby lips. She leaned in, and—ruby against ruby—gave herself the slowest, most sensual kiss I’d ever witnessed in all of my lovemaking and porn watching days. Mossy lines infectiously formed and spread from her kiss mark until suddenly, like a bug in a zapper, there was flash of light. Just like the clay pot that suburban sunny day, the glass shattered. Once again, Pam was left in tears, but this time tears of laughter.

Artist’s Note: As I say my name is Adelia Amineva. I was born in Saint-Petersburg, Russia in 1992. Drawing has always been my most favorite pastime. In my childhood I visited art classes and my mother, she’s an architect, corrected my mistakes in the drawings. But I still position myself as a self-taught illustrator. By profession I am a lawyer (LLM medical law) but in my heart I am pure artist. A year ago I created my profile in Instagram and since then I paint to order and cooperate with various companies. Mainly my clients are from America, England and Australia. Now I’m open for art cooperation and interesting creative projects.

These works were previously featured in Volume 4: Issue 2 (Summer 2016) of In Parentheses. On sale now.

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