Monday, October 27, 2008

the ring story


photo by: Steve Braidman
I tell him we should get married next fall. He agrees. I tell him he should email his uncle, the jeweler. He does. I tell myself to stop reading his emails looking for a picture or response from his uncle, the jeweler. I don’t. Finally, after a few days of logging into two email accounts I see that his uncle, the jeweler, has FedExed a package to our address. He tells me that there are samples coming. FedEx comes twice, but we aren’t at home. He won't drive to pick them up. The next day, they are on his dresser. Waiting.

He is away that night. I open the miniature manila envelope. I find three sapphire rings. We had agreed on his blue birthstone.

One ring is thick and gold.
One is thin with a simple lonely oval stone.
One is thick with intricate carvings, six small diamonds, and one large dark sapphire.

I don’t really like any of them, but I try to wear all three. Give them each a second chance. I think I like the intricately woven ring. I think it’s too small. It should fit. He told his uncle, the jeweler, I am a size eight. I get it over the knuckle, barely. With earnest and flushed-faced panic, I free my finger. Never again. The rings go back. Back into each zip lock bag. Back into the miniature manila. Back.

“Did you get them yet?”
I lie.
“What is this? Are these the rings?”
I lie again pointing.

He jumps toward me. Takes them. Pockets them. I tell him he shouldn’t leave them out because I could find them. He tells me not to snoop. The next day I do. I snoop. He is at work and I want to see the rings. I take each out and wonder which he has chosen. He has chosen one. The uncle, his jeweler, sent only three. There is not a perfect ring hiding anywhere else. I have looked. I think he has chosen the intricately woven ring. I agree that it has all the qualities I asked for. It is still too small.

“I’ll bet it’s too small.”
I lie.
“I’ll close my eyes and you can put it on and if it is too small you can mail it back to be re sized.”

He won’t. He says he is not going to ask me until after Saturday. Saturday is his brother’s wedding. I complain. I can’t lie until Saturday. I can’t wait. I am angry. He is patient. He is right. The next day I put on the ring for the last time before he will ask me. Over the knuckle and it is stuck.

Soapily scrubbing.
Painfully pulling.
The ring is off.
My heart pounds.
The swollen finger throbs.

That night after he leaves I convince myself again. I want to see how it looks when I type. Stand before the mirror. Casually hold my hand to my face.

I go to remove it. I go again.
Twist and pull.
Soap.
Hot water.
Twist and pull.
Soap. Cold water.
Twist and pull.

My brother and sisters call to me from the other room.

“I’m doing work.”
I call back.

This is work. The finger is red and has expanded out and over. This is not going to come off. He will be home in two hours. I have two hours. I am alone one more hour before I emerge. Looking for help.

“I can’t get it off...I found it and wanted to see what would look like on.”

My sister laughs. She laughs hard. She calls in my older sister. Who laughs harder. I laugh. I confess to my brother. He is disappointed. This is not going to come off. My brother does research.

Raise my hand above my head.
Ice.
Ten minutes, no less.
Windex.
Windex?
Windex.
Pull and twist.
Repeat until you want to kill yourself.

We find no remedies. I call him.

“I’ll be home in a minute.”

“ok.”

I cry. Hard. My little sister is no longer laughing. She oils, pulls and twists. I pull away and put my hand in a large cup of ice water. I am wet from my recommended cold shower. I am considering the hospital. I am afraid this will be the last awful thing I do to him. He is home. My sisters run away. My brother pats his shoulder. I cry. My tears fall between my legs. My hand is still in the over-sized orange cup. He looks at me then looks at the opened miniature manila. He smiles, shakes his head and walks away.

“I’m.m.m so-oorrry.”
I sob.

I am not only sorry that I was found left-handed. I am sorry to have replaced potential romance with selfish impatience.

“I can’t get it off. I’m sorry.”

I do not get it off. For two days I wear it and it tortures my finger. Punishment. After these two days, we go to the emergency room. I tell the nurse and he laughs. He cuts the ring and shakes his head.

“Couple more days…”

Couple more days and only nine fingers would be holding my flower bouquet next October.

The ring is FedExed again. Saturday before the wedding he gives me the mended ring from his uncle, the jeweler. He doesn’t get on one knee. He doesn’t ask me anything but:

“Do you want to wear it?”

The blue sapphire matches my blue dress.

“Ok.”

The once broken 6 ½ sized ring now fits my still slightly swollen size 8 finger. At the wedding, the story makes the room, but we do not allow it to become a distraction. We dance like no one knows. We laugh because everyone knows.




“I’m sorry I didn’t ask you for your daughter’s hand in marriage, but she proposed to herself.”

I want a bite


photo by: Sandy Cummings


The sky is snowing. Looks like the buildings are snowing. Terrified flakes grab onto the wind, hoping not to land onto the unfamiliar terrain of my dead end street. Not my dead end. I rent out this dead end apartment with my two sisters, my boyfriend, Scott and my sister’s boyfriend. Five people live here according to the mailman. Three according to the landlord.

This morning, Mom and I discuss my overworked schedule and fear that I will live as commonly as every other Rachel in the world. Who wants to be average? Maybe I do. I haven’t decided yet.
“Truth is, you haven't even gotten to the hardest part of life. Once you figure out, or think you've figured out, what you're doing with your life, you'll have a whole mess of new problems."
Once I no longer rent. Once I buy. Once I procreate, I will probably have the same problems I have now except I will also have other people to worry about. Little people. Who look like Scott and I. Pale, frizzy haired babies. Dilly-dallying toddlers. Acne-prone teenagers. Twenty-something drifters whom I will then turn to and say that this really isn't as bad as they think, that things will only get worst.
Enlightening. Depressing.  I can wait 40 years until retirement.

I don't want life to fly by as fast as an ice cream sundae does in front of my little sister when she orders it to share with me. If you want your own, order you own. This is my life and I want a bite. Several. I want several chocolate peanut buttery whip cream covered bites.

Day Off




One of my favorite breakfasts require: two eggs, toast, cheese, and ketchup. On the stove, I do a magic trick where I turn the contaminated salmonella chicken period into solidified soul satisfying scrambleeeees. Then I sprinkle cheese until it melts, scoop it onto my plate and then squirt my ketchup and spread my toast. While I sit eating I decide what to do that day and/or the rest of my life.

Usually, I walk into town and buy an overpriced coffee and peruse the local bookstore judging novels and memoirs by the covers in a search of something inspiring enough to better my life. When this doesn’t happen, I go home and hit the can. The caffeine in coffee will give me a reason to live and be prosperous, but it will also encourage my digestive system to quietly escort the curds, whey and the ill-fated chick’s menstrual cycle out. I prefer to be home when this happens.

After the caffeine abruptly exits, I usually crash from the caffeine with either: uncontrollable tears, journal fuming, running in spandex, and/or most of the time, turning to Scott (if he is home) and asking him  “what am I doing with my life?” If he is not home, I list everything I want to accomplish before I die or before I have his children.

Ugly




I feel disheveled sitting on this train. A skinny teenage girl sits beside me, prancing her violet-red manicure upon her phone, flipping through her play list of pop music. She wears shiny black ballet flats around her slender bony feet, an outfit designed for a storefront window, large designer sunglasses and the hair of a Disney princess.

I am sitting with my journal in my lap. My legs are crossed and covered in faded denim. I am biting my dry peeling cuticles; tugging down the sleeves of my small blue corduroy jacket; and flipping my frizzy wisps back, behind my naked ears. I am tapping my blue Converse sneakers, which are torn and exposing my cotton sock covered bunions. Despite these details, I feel self-assured. The music in my ears makes me happy. The caffeine in my blood starts me writing and shows me that my usual lack of confidence is ugly.

gray, wool cardigans.


Ever have those days where you can't get out of bed? Not necessarily because you were up late watching Family Guy again or because you went to a concert and decided to become a musician and stayed up all night playing different combinations of C G and D chords on the classical guitar your father bought you two Christmas's ago, but because you realize you don't know what to do with yourself? Staying in bed could be just as productive as getting up. Usually these mornings are appealing when I first wake up, but once I realize last night's late night snack has evaporated and/or wants company, I put on pants. If it's cold, one of my ugly grandma sweaters over my tank top (not a sweater given to me by one of my grandmothers, but one I should probably give to them. Gray, wool cardigans. I have two.) So I'll get up to have cereal with banana and honey.

Then I'll remember there is something I want to do.

Ambition




“Do you ever wonder if you're missing your soul mate by staying with me?” He asks as he lays across our bed. “No, you are my soul mate.” I say after a short regard to his question. “I don't want to be holding you back."

It isn’t you that keeps me from pursuing absurdly expensive graduate school or backpacking through Ireland. It is us that keeps me from abandoning the familiar normalcy of our here and now. I do not want to break this routine or my heart by living apart and racking up loans that take winning the Mega Millions three times over to pay off in
full. I like now. Sometimes it takes a cup of coffee for me to say it to you as many times as I did today, but deep down the bottomless pit of my stomach, I do know it.

"What would you change about me, if you could?" He asks next and I actually began to answer this question. In fact, I do answer it and so much detailed data to assemble a 90-minute power point presentation. “I would make you ambitious.” I say.

As this statement dives into his sensitive ears, I back up and backpedal as simultaneously as I can. Why this sudden desire to play Lady Macbeth? I don't want Scott killing anyone. And I certainly do not want to die in an offstage suicide. So, I retort my statement. If you were "ambitious," I say,  you would lose your relaxed nature that laughs away the retirement plans I have made for the two of us. I would change nothing. I would change nothing about you. To me, you are perfect. I know that's a titanic cliché, but luckily for me, it's true. You are perfect for me, that is.

This whole response to Scott’s question stems from my mother. Sunday morning, before going to work, I read this email from her.

Hey - Dad told me about your exchange of emails this a.m. So I'm butting in - I think you would be a little foolish not to audition for the Shakespeare in Boston. Several reasons - you have said yourself that auditioning is hardest when you don't do it often; if you do get in, it can be worked out with Scott's family and any other weddings this summer. Just because there are weddings, does not mean you should put your own life on hold. It is one thing to be there for others, but please do not forget your own goals and passions. Audition - you need to. My opinion...
MOM

This made me cry ugly, face distorting tears. Then I went to work telling myself that I am lazy, unambitious and afraid of rejection and disappointment. That night Mom came to eat with Dad, Samantha and Jess, at the restaurant. After which, she left me a note:

I'm just saying...Let's make a date~ in the meantime, put yourself first if possible. Love you forever!
MOM

That morning, I cried because she was right. I cried because I felt lazy and misguided. I cried because of PMS. I cried because it is me that needs the push, not Scott.

Bald Spot





A couple days before our trip to Chicago, Scott decides to cut his hair. He doesn’t want to go back to the Greek barbershop down the road in Astoria. The Greeks like the wet shave. Scott doesn’t trust strangers to wet shave his throat. I don’t blame him.  So he avoids the barbeshop entirely and buys himself an electric beard trimmer from the local pharmacy. That night, we stand on a towel in the bathroom looking across to his reflection. We read the appliance’s manual and Scott directs me to start trimming.  I hold it way Scott says, but the terrain is bumpy and he is soon crying out in pain.  “Sorry.” “OW!” “Sorry!” It feels like I’m mowing a mountain with a blender. Some hairs hit the blades. Some are pulled out by the blades. And all the remaining hairs are left tall and untouched. “Fuck it. I’ll do it.” He says, lowering his head over the sink and running the buzzing electric blade over his scalp with very little attempt to do it well.  This really gets me laughing. “What are you DOING? You’re not even looking…oh       God.” There in the back of his head is a small but undeniable bald spot. This was a terrible idea. He adjusts the blade. Now he needs to even it out, he tells me.


Brothers




When we get lost in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, I call his brother.  A sign just told trucks to get off the road and we obeyed. With his brother’s directions, we creep the moving truck through the cramped double-parked streets of Brooklyn, New York and eventually we find our new address in Astoria, Queens. John arrives soon after with his sleeves pushed up. He has done numerous New York City moves. On the corner of the block is a stand with a red and white umbrella, a silver cart and the smoky steam of grilled meat. The day is a hot June 2nd. For hours, we walk up and down the three flights. I am soaked with sweat. This makes for awkward introductions in the curved narrow stairwell of our new apartment building. 


We carry duct taped boxes, crates of hammy down pots and pans, clothes in trash bags and suitcases, textbooks, pillows, toothbrushes, and a couch standing on its pleather end, piles of fragmented, unpacked lives on the third floor, just twenty feet from the above ground N/W train tracks.

By 11 p.m. that night, we are weak with hunger. We haven’t eaten since breakfast. Sticky with dry sweat, we find food in an Asian restaurant where pictures of the specials are on the walls and a two hundred inch television plays Chinese soap operas with Japanese subtitles.

Back at our new home, afraid to separate, we shower together. I pluck out my contact lenses, squeezing solution into the case, but then suddenly, these unfamiliar surroundings become blurry unfamiliar surroundings and I start to suffocate. I cannot find my glasses anywhere and now I cannot find my breath. Scott removes our dinner leftovers of chicken and rice and hands me the warm paper bag. And after several crinkling inflates and deflates, I find a calm. Then a train roars by.

The next morning we are up at 6a.m. We dress and hurry to move the moving truck before the street sweepers order a tow truck to. When I walk around the truck to the passenger’s side, spray painted squiggles cover the side of the truck’s wall. We laugh when we remember the insurance we purchased. ”Oh no! Did it say, get out of New York?” Mom asks later that night. Maybe in the language of illiterate gangsters.

We return the truck and walk to a bagel shop. We sit on the curb in the sun. Our knees up by our chins. Peanut butter drips onto my fingers from my toasted sandwich, while Scott licks melted cream cheese from the wax paper of his.

Bagels, job applications, stolen cable and twenty four hour trains. These are our signs of freedom. When the trains stop outside our apartment, waiting for the lights to change, we wave and sometimes even moon our pale dimpled cabuses against the windows. The conductors never notice. Nor do the commuters.

One year later, my brother helps us move to Boston. This move is not nearly as hot nor as difficult as our move to New York. They give us the wrong truck, one much smaller than the one we ordered with only has two seats. I sit in the middle on a folding chair and slouch when we pass tolls and police officers. Again, no one notices.

Scott drives over the Yellowstone Bridge and when he recognizes the Massachusetts Turnpike beneath us, his shoulders ease for the first time in months. He knows where he is.



[From breakfast to breakfast], every day, every night, the N and the W trains pass by our windows. When they stop outside waiting for the lights to change, we wave. The conductors never notice. The commuters never notice. Never see.


One year later, my brother helps us move back to Massachusetts. This move is not so hot and not so hard. They give us the wrong truck. This truck is smaller and only has two seats. It’s ok, though. I sit in the middle on a folding chair and slouch when we pass tolls and police. No one notices.


Scott drives over the Yellowstone Bridge. When he recognizes the Mass Pike beneath us, his shoulders ease. He knows where he is.

Fast Lane




My window is down. The ticket and exact change are ready in my hand as I sit in my forest green Ford Escort, waiting to pay my toll at the Palmer, Massachusetts exit. And I’m waiting and the car behind me is waiting and the car behind him is waiting. Eventually, there is a line of beeping cars waiting behind me. Equally impatient, I look back as their rally leader, “I know, right? This is ridiculous!” But then a middle-aged man, slurping a slushy, walks up to my window and says, “You’re in the Fast Lane.” “I am? Oh. Can I just pay you?” I ask. “No. It’s too late. You’re already on camera.” 

Dead Baby Squirrels


photo by: Mark Cummings


It’s my junior year of college and I live in an old house by a river. Last week, while I was away, my roommate called and said, “Rachel, I just fished a dead baby squirrel out of the toilet.”  This terrified me. I have an unexplainable fear of dead things.

Today, I woke up early with an incredible urge to use the loo. So badly did I need to unleash my pee that I ran to the toilet without putting on my glasses. And as soon as my fingers wrapped the bathroom’s door handle, I was struck with this knowledge, this foresight, that there would be a dead baby squirrel in the toilet bowl this morning. Bending at the hip now with a pressing hand as my levee to my nearly breaking bladder, I kick up the toilet seat. I was right. How I knew, I’ll never know. There in the water, a small blurry body with a long wet tail floats. Gross. A dead baby squirrel. What a scary adventure that must have been, crawling through our rusted pipes to find his destination, his death, in a shallow, lidded pool. I push down the handle to flush. The corpse swirls and swirls. Refusing to pull him out, in fear water will drip from his fur to the floor, I go outside to the yard to retrieve a stick and once the toilet stops tissing, I flush again. This time, as the toilet water circles down, I guide the small soggy body down through the hole he entered in the middle of the night. This, I imagine, will tell his friends that this pipe is not an exit. 

Hole


photo by: Patrick Cummings


The September of my sophomore year of college, I convince my father and brother to loft my bed onto my desk and bookshelf. It is a common dorm room design where I live, I explain. Later that night, my father calls,  insisting I take my bed down. I'll be fine, I assure him. And I am fine for the first three weeks of the semester. But then one Saturday night in late September, while waiting for my boyfriend, Scott, to call, I fall asleep and at 3a.m when the phone rings, I fall six feet to the floor, reaching for the ring. My stomach and chin bounce on the hard floor. I grab the green receiver, and press it to my ear. Dial tone.

Now awake and crying, I call out for help. Adam, my roomate's boyfriend, jumps down from her lofted bed and hugs me, unsure what else to do. I ask him to turn on the light and he stumbles to the switch. Sharp white light reveals there is red everywhere. I run to the bathroom across the hall. The tiles are cold under my feet. Before the mirror, over a low sink, I tilt back my head to see my chin. Soon Adam is swinging the door in. “I have Neosporin and Band-aids in my room.” He says. “Adam. there is a hole in my chin” I say, pointing to my face. “I’ll get my car.”

Back in the room, I return Scott’s phone call. “Hey.” I say. “Hey.” He says. “When you called a minute ago, I fell off my bed and now I have a hole in my chin and Adam and Masha are taking me to Health Services.” I say quickly, hoping to stir some sympathy. “Ok.”

At Health Services, I ring the “Emergency Only” bell and two nurses run to let us in. I thank them, a towel balled and pressed to my chin. They are surprised to see someone sober, they tell me.

In the back room, a friendly doctor sews my chin shut with eight small black stitches, while I listen to a young man in the next room, through slurred his speech, request that he be released.  

Scott is in the waiting room when I walk out.

The four of us return to my and Masha’s dorm room. We climb up to our lofted beds and finish sleeping. Scott sleeps on the outside to keep me from falling, and the next morning, my bed is returned to its purposed place on the floor. 

Aussie



“Why wash your hair?” He says. He who was raised by sexy Australian wolves in the outback, or as I like to imagine. “Shampoo takes the natural oils out and conditioner just puts fake oils back in. So I just skip the whole process.”  I want Aussie, but Aussie wants English (the curvy exchange student from London).

One Saturday night, the three of us are at a party. It is like all other college parties: drinking, smoking, people disappearing. Everyone, (except Aussie, English and I) disappear by 3 a.m. The apartment’s renters point to the foldout couch and to a couch that does not fold out. Then they leave to further entertain guests in their beds. While the flirting foreigners make the bed, I fold out onto the couch and anticipate awkwardness.

Once the lights are turned out, I lay desperately decoding and distinguishing every sheet shuffling sound. Are they just getting comfortable? I wonder. I am not comfortable. And then I hear it: the faintest and yet clearest indication of my current fear: a groan. For the next thirty seconds, I lay in a sweatied agony before jumping up. I know where my shoes are, I think, stumbling at the staircase. I feel around and find my bag. I then stumble toward the general direction of the front door and grab the knob. Outside in the florescent light of the apartment complex’s hallway, I put my shoes on and hurry for fresh air freedom.

 At the end of the parking lot, I realize I don’t really know where I am. All I know is taking a right will send me in the general direction of campus. A ways down the sidewalk, I hear my name and turn around. Under one of the streetlight spills, a shirtless Aussie runs toward me. “I thought you had a girlfriend.” I accuse when he reaches me. He apologizes and explains that his relationship isn’t working. Blah blah blah. I then attempt to hate him, but he is barefoot, shirtless and his hair looks like he has just pranced through the rain forest. I tell him I’m walking back to campus. I shouldn’t go alone, he says. It’s 4a.m now. He’ll walk me back. Oooooooh all right. If Aussie wants to protect me, Aussie can protect me. He’ll be right back. He tells me, leaving me alone with the quiet night. Two minutes later he returns with his boots, his torn plaid shirt and the embarrassed, slightly perturbed English.  This’ll be interesting.

All three of us turn and trek back to campus. For an hour, we stroll through our tired drunkenness and down the yellow lines of dark college streets where trees hang heavy with late Autumn leaves and eventually while the sun is busy splitting from the horizon, we three split from one other, staggering into our separate dorm buildings, wondering what. just. happened?.

Sugar




The red small pickup truck smells of cologne and rust. The navy blue plastic interior has been rubbed white in places, like by the radio buttons and the knob for the heat. The long three-person seat is flat felt, lumpy all over with seat belts stuffed into its sides.  At the height of our driveway, inches from the garage door, he stops the truck and cranks the stick into park. “How about a sugar?” He asks, turning toward me with a smile. What phrasing from a sixteen year old.
I am fifteen years old and have never kissed a boy before this moment. I had prepped for it, knew it was inevitable, but now in the center of it, I realize how extremely nervous I am. When he asks for a sugar, I dive at his face like a seagull descending for a dropped potato chip: land, peck, and fly away. Before he can straighten from his slow lean-in position and ask me for milk, honey, or eggs, I have my backpack strap in my hand and I’m nearly yelling, “Thanks for the ride!” I push open the passenger side door and slam it closed.
Inside, I drop my pack and breathe. Outside, there is a pause before the truck is shifted from park to reverse.

Service


photo by: Mark Cummings


We are female Altar Boys. Servers. Altar Servers. I am eleven. My sister, Samantha, is nine. “Mass will be less boring.” Our mother encourages enthusiastically. “It’s an admirable opportunity.” Our father corrects, his thick black eyebrows rising.
We are fit for long cotton robes and taught how to strike soft paper matches by bending the paper books backwards.  We become the altar-serving sisters, performing nearly every Sunday at Martha and Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Lakeville, Massachusetts.
After several successful months of service under our brown rope belts, one blunder occurs that causes us all to regret this decision to sanctify my sister, Samantha, and I.
It is a quiet Sunday afternoon at the church where off white ceilings and walls of rough spiral plaster are intercepted by dark wooden beams and tall stain glass windows. Beside the altar, side-by-side, Samantha and I stand. Anticipating the mass’s communion preparatory blessing rituals, Samantha holds the golden chalice of crossed wafers. I hold the wine. When the priest turns toward us with his palms up and nods his red bald head, Sam steps forward and up onto the altar, but her long cream colored robe slides under her shoe and she steps on it and trips. She goes down onto her stomach, causing the soon-to-be Body of Christ to project up and out like compressed confetti from a can.  The hosts fall to the red carpet like snow falling over a massacre. Samantha, rug burned and petrified of scoldings, raises her eyes to the priest. This, of course, has never happened to us before and therefore we do not have the slightest idea of how to mend this mistake. The old man interrupts our frozen fright with curt instructions. “Pick it up!” He whispers. And we do. On our knobbly knees, we gather the hosts like handfuls of sand. Every person in the congregation is watching, even the fussy baby in the back. In the front, our father sits with his eyes behind his hand in a quiet humiliation. Beside him, our mother has her mouth behind her hand, trying not to laugh. 


Robot Rachel


photo by: Sandy Cummings
“Let’s play Robot Rachel.”


Robot Rachel silently circles the neighbor’s house in a slow silent pursuit.

She has
her arms o
ut. Her
hands
limp.
Her mouth long and open.
Her eyes
big blue
beetles.
No cost-
ume.No
mask. I
am
Robot
Rachel.

My victims, the neighborhood kids, run away screaming in terror. The moms hear the shrieks and abandon the Days of their Lives to investigate the days of ours.


“It’s just me. We’re playing a game. Everybody’s fine.”

Fingers


photo by: Mark Cummings


After my First Communion, I will quit sucking my fingers.
I suck the index and middle fingers of my left hand. If my fingers were crack cocaine, I would qualify as an addict. I suck them until my teeth hurt, until my fingers bubble blisters, while sleeping, bathing, urinating, Sesame Streeting and summertime sprinkler streaking. From morning until night, night until morning, I slurp my personal Popsicles to ease my adolescent stress. “Come on Rachey, get your fingers out of your mouth.” My mother pesters.
One day, she organizes an intervention. Just for me. Not for my sisters, not my brother. Me. The intervention lasts one week. Every night before tucking me into bed, she wraps my fat fingers in earwax-flavored band-aids (I don’t know what makes this awful taste, but it’s resemblance to the yellow wax from my ears is remarkable). When my mother turns out the light, I dip my terrible tasting fingers into my mouth, laying them down on my stiff tongue. I pull them out and fall asleep without the familiar fatness wedged between my teeth.   But every night that week, in my sleep, I suck off the applied bitterness and wake up every morning having nearly swallowed another soggy band-aid. My mother stops wrapping my fingers. The intervention is a wash, or more precisely a spit bath. We give my addiction a little more time.
After my First Communion, I will quit, I tell myself. And I do. Two years after my First Communion.

Mommy!


photo by Sandy Cummings
One too many Tom & Jerry jelly jar glasses of juice sit in my four- year-old bladder. Someone should be monitoring my fluid intake more carefully. Documenting it.

Mom carefully climbs the minivan up the narrow Bourne Bridge. I watch the Cape Cod Canal splash beneath me from the backseat. “Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom.” I say. “Ok Rachey, we’re almost home.” 



Approximately three seconds pass before, “Mommy, I’m GOING to the bathroom!”




I found a puddle and I fell in it.




I am in the first grade. 

A handheld bell tolls, announcing the end of recess. Kids disperse from freeze tag, drop from monkey bars and cease imaginary games of war and peace. I sit alone, dallying on my derriere. When the footsteps fade to quiet and the bell is held still, I relax the grip of my stomach and flood the seat of my pants. Warm urine cascades between the cracks to gray pebbles below. When my bladder is done draining, I stand and observe my dark, bum-shaped vandalism. I walk toward the school with my square plastic lunchbox strategically placed over my wet bobbing bottom.

Inside the nurse's office, I tell her that I've fallen into a puddle.

“Rachel, it's dry outside.” 

"I found a puddle and I fell in it." 

The nurse lets me sit on the red leather couch across from her desk. There on my cold and soggy bottom, I listen while she calls my mother, who saves the day with a clean pair of pants. They are not the same color as the wet purple pair, but even at the age of six, I understand that it's not her fault. 

“Rachey, once we drink the rest of these, we will start buying smaller juice boxes.” My mother says.

And I will stop falling in puddles.