The Ascension of Soft Bright Things
By Halli Melnitsky, Aug 24, 2009

Who gets allergies in the winter? In December, when the air’s so cold that all the pollen is locked away, frozen inside a dead flower? When there’s no summer breeze to gently waft dust towards your waiting lungs?

But my mother’s voice, always a little nasal, sounded positively Dylan-esque across the phone lines.

“You should take something,” I said.

I had just taken something. The girl I wasn’t dating had taken me to her apartment and given me a yellow pill. It had smelled like coconut in a hospital kind of way, but tasted like nothing at all.

“No, it’s good that I have a runny nose. I’m draining,” my mother said. “You take decongestants—those just bottle you up. But the mucus is still there. Inside you. No. You’ve got to get it all out of your system.” I heard the soft tug of a tissue leaving its box.

“I get it.” The girl I wasn’t dating was naked. She was wrapping herself in Christmas lights. The cord stretched between her armpits and twisted around her hips.

“Do you feel it, yet?” She plugged the cord in and a hundred little lights pulsed against her skin.

I rested my palm against the mouthpiece of my phone. “Not yet.”

“Funny.” She brought her hands to a point above her head. “Look,” she said. “I’m a Christmas tree.” A red bulb pressed on her nipple and lit her entire breast. “I’m your happy childhood.”

“I’m Jewish.”

“Oh.” She let her arms fall to her sides. “I’m your assimilation to Christian culture. I’m your movies and your Chinese food. I’m your Hanukkah bush.”

The girl I wasn’t dating started to twirl. The Christmas lights fell away from her and glowed feebly against the carpet. Her skin was dotted with a hundred almond-shaped blisters.

“That doesn’t hurt?” I asked.

“What, the draining?” my mother asked. The girl I wasn’t dating touched the burn on her breast with a clinical curiosity.

Halli Melnitsky’s fiction and poetry have been featured or are forthcoming in Word Riot, The Rose and the Thorn, and The Haverford Review. Her humor writing has been featured in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The New York Times humor blog Laugh Lines, and Book: The Sequel.