Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sideswims




We only remember one umbrella and he holds the handle while I hold his hand and we rename the sidewalks sideswims and paddle to the train station.

Fat raindrops belly flop into our flippers, drenching socks and curling toes. Fat raindrops spit on my face, washing away powdered makeup and exposing cold purple blemish scars and my white winter skin. Fat raindrops pour salty slush puppies into nearby sewage drains, making me thirsty for a road trip to college.


Eventually, we stand at the train station, hiding from the rain, huddled in the warmth of our laughter.

while I wait alone




I say, "Ok you can go...I'm going to sit here and pretend to write something."  
He walks away after saying, "You are so awkward." I do not disagree. I pull my bag to my lap, click my pen, open my notebook and write this.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Soup




Confounded by wheelchair inaccessibility, a man near by self-consciously slurps soup. The spoon disappears into the firm fist of his right hand. His left hand holds up his bristled face, while with a shaky steadiness, he lifts the spoon to his mouth. He stares down at his bowl, hoping the shadow of his hand might hide the platoon of rebel muscle spasms attacking his face.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Nana


My Nana, my paternal grandmother, was born in 1924. She was one of thirteen Italian children. She is the mother of seven Italian/Irish children.
She was a waitress for fifteen
 years in a family owned, forty-year-old restaurant. "When I worked here, the father, he was Italian, and when he got mad he would come to my sister and I and he would swear in Italian because we could understand him."
Her familiar Boston accent conducts our heart strings into a song we've all played before. A story we've all heard before. Then she pauses, bites her burger, sips her soda. "I would serve this entire counter and those two booths. They were so nice to me. They still send me a gift every Christmas. You know, I worked at Howard Johnson's for years as a waitress and then they made me a host and I didn't like that very much. After I retired, my sister Joanne told me to come work here. 'Come on Connie, they need your help.' And I said, I don't know, but I started working here and they were so nice to me. (She giggles remembering) When the father, the owner, would get angry he would speak Italian to my sister Joanne and I, because we understood him."
Small spoonfuls of a classic hot fudge sundae politely pass between her wrinkled lips. She has 84 years of stories to remember. This is not memory loss. This is memory gain. She tells. She repeats and repeats. We remember and then we repeat.

This is my first repeat.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Kissing Cups



We drink coffee from paper cups and eat free employee eggs while we wait for the morning to pass. Scott lifts both warm paper cups and pulls them into one another. Gingerly, romantically, the paper lids kiss. Scott then lifts both warm paper cups and pushes them into one another. Abruptly, violently, the paper cups hump one another. I stand by, abducted by giggles. Another waiter spies on, quizzically disturbed. He walks away. Scott then lifts a fork full of scrambled eggs and kisses my omelet with it. Then messily, the eggs fornicate on my plate.

That's when I say that breakfast is over.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Her wedding will coincide with the happiest day of my life.




Usually, she hides in the darkest corner of her living room, allowing only the light from the television in. But I think she stumbled upon the sun this morning and swallowed it whole. Streams of bright happy hope drip from her dry green. One day, my sister’s wedding will coincide with the happiest day of my life.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mark?




"Can I get a little help over here? Mark? …MARK?" My mother begs. "hmm?" My father asks. "Not even listening." This is true. He is not listening. He is enslaved by the four thousand-page American Civil War novel he has on his lap. She is not reading. She is enslaved by the motherhood of four hormonally challenged teenagers. With his eyes still on the print, my father attempts to appeasement, "Knock it off kids."

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Papa




I am eight. I take an hour-long bus ride to and from my small parochial elementary school every day. And one afternoon, I go in and out of hiding in my puffy, multi-colored florescent coat to bite my secret candy bar: eating is strictly forbidden on the bus. I am peculiar looking, pulling my hands and entire head inside my closed coat, but I am discreet. At a stop halfway home and halfway through my candy bar, my sister tells me Mom is there to pick us up. 


With our backpacks slung over our small shoulders and sleepy post school stories, my brother, two sisters and I file off the bus and pile into the minivan. Buckled in my seat with my chocolate now out in the open, I go to take my first legal bite when Mom begins to cry. I watch her eyes move and her cheeks flush in the rear view mirror as she says, "Papa died in his sleep last night, the most peaceful way to go." The chocolate in my hand suddenly becomes like a weight, a bothersome thing I must hold until we are home. "The most peaceful way to go." She says. In a strong sense, I do not know what it means, this "go". Because I do not understand the finality of death, I wait for Papa to return. Say he got lost driving to the grocery store or something. But he doesn’t return and my father stays with Nana all week. 


After the open casket wake where I am instructed to hug Nana and kneel to say an Our Father; after the funeral where the cantor sings "On Eagle's Wings" and I cry clutching damp tissues between my sweaty fingers, trying not to make a sound, I understand that Papa is not coming back.   


Until recently, I had always believed that Papa passed away from old age, but Papa died of cancer. I was too young to know the truth, they tell me, so they, the grownups, fibbed. Papa has a cold. They'd say. "Don’t kiss Papa on the lips or you’ll get sick." They were really saying, Don’t kiss Papa on the lips or you’ll get him sick. He didn't die of old age; he was still close to sixty. 




Thursday, January 1, 2009

Smiles When They Fade




There is a waitress, a waitress sadder than me, but she doesn't want anyone to know this about her, so don't tell her I told you. Sometimes, she laughs a cackle into the quiet aftermath of someone's joke and it is as disruptively disturbing as dropping a stack of dirty dishes in the dining room. Then, just as abruptly as it appears, her smile leaps from her mouth, neglecting to fade naturally. I think there, in the moment when a smile fades, is where true happiness and misery nest. Sometimes she weeps. We ignore her and go on delivering food to tables and writing down orders in our little ringed notebooks. There is nothing we can say. She will cry until she stops.