He told me of how she had awakened him in the 4 a.m. mist. Eyes bloodshot, the turquoise clouded with her cigarette smoke. 4 a.m. and already half a pack down. Staring at their postcards from New Orleans, how the ghosts of the Bayou Bienvenue rose from the wetland, clammed at her arms. The shriveled cypress trunks in the water, Please come with us. She held on to the broken hands, in her fresh sunflower frock. She always thought I’d like her more in her death dress.
My sister sat with me in her car, taking dollar bills out of my purse because she wasn’t getting paid until next week. Dollars going through the parking meter, each beep reminding me of the news she couldn’t wait to tell me. As she’s redoing her salmon lipstick and making sure her right eyelash stays put, she can’t help but let the words slip I’m starting fresh. This is my new life. She already has her mom fooled, this one’s the one. I stare at my phone, nodding that I’m happy for her, careful not to say Is this your third new life this year? She talks about his money, the daughter from a former marriage how he called her pajamas Grandma, picked her out some rouge lingerie for the ***** deed. A few ***** deeds and he wants to move out and buy her a house. I’m never quite sure what to say, all that comes out is nervous laughter. Well, boys will be boys. The one in Vegas comes to mind first, he also promised her forever. What about the dealer in California? It wasn’t even his house. I told her that I hope she’s happy this time, each ring coming from her phone, a fang severing more freckled skin.
So this is what it felt like. People always told me that it would just feel like peace. To me, I always imagined it to be a field of marigolds, with the smells of golden amber and patchouli wavering through my bones.
It was the days when my knotted hair finally became unraveled and you combed through the tangles while the smell of berries and mint floated through the air.
It was the burnt butter of the waffles cooking in the iron and thick bacon spewing bits of grease out of the pan as Mother cooked on cartoon-filled Saturday mornings.
I was always told that with peace, there were no inviting questions. No sinful, succulent maybes. No mirroring what-ifs.
You in the arms of another, no marigolds, tangles, or berries. Death, you didn’t get me this time. I will be okay.
You’re so exotic. He’d stare into my almond eyes, one lighter than the other fingers following the tangled waves that ran down my shoulder blades.
What was exotic? My father, blue eyed brute, born into the Los Angeles slums when the city lights were still filled by browning fields.
My mother, unbleached hazel, proud to say she’s been an American longer, than ever a refugee.
You should dye it black. The tangled waves, hues of coffee and amber were never good enough.
You should dress more like them. I’m sorry, the pink and blue sampot hol with silk ruffles and mandarin flowers don’t match my ***** sneakers, and for the hundredth time, it’s not a kimono. No, I don’t know anyone who works at that massage parlor with the women in six inch heels parading around the golden dragon out in front.
No, my father didn’t rescue my mother from the nail salon and what makes you think I would know anything about mail order brides.
Television has taught you that I should be exotic and neurotic. Ready to submit at the snap of your fingers.
Ready to present, with a geisha’s poise. You really expect me to respond?
How long has it been since they were last together? She remembers the first rainy dinner and the soggy bread. She remembers the road trip to California, lost on the road forever. The first picture taken of them embracing hasn’t left her mind. After they hugged, she snuck a peck and he turned Venetian red. She remembers the way he sang out on the streets for change. His voice, only one of its kind. What she’ll always remember is how he started acting strange and how the little blue pill box wasn’t what she thought. Struggling, he had one foot in adulthood, the other fighting to keep him in his youth. She remembers even though they were so in love, she couldn’t see and misunderstood. She shook those thoughts away and got her head down from above. 35 and now just seeing the truth of how a little blue pill box can cause a strife. She knew now, for the rest of her life he would always be the angel-faced boy and nothing more because he would forever stay 24.