Sunday, April 27, 2014

Head Like A Hole

Big Mare had a pink coat with three giant matching buttons.  I love the memory of her wearing that coat.  It was visually over the top, but simple in its design.  Just like her.

I was sad when I noticed the cigarette burn on the inside seam of one of the sleeves.  She must have looked away for just a minute.  The embers bore through the material to the silky lining underneath.  They left an orange ring, surrounded by a thin brown border.

The hole was never mended.  It was in such an awkward spot, and some things are too hard to fix.  Besides, Mom only had the one coat.  Eventually, she just learned to live with it.

I used to sneak into my mother's bedroom when she was on the phone.  I'd spook around in her drawers and closet.  I was always looking for something.  I'd find her coat and look for the hole.  I hated that it was there.  I slid my finger inside the tiny opening and made it bigger.  With each visit to her closet, the hole grew.  Its size began to worry me, but I couldn't curb my interest.  I made that cigarette burn my problem.

I panicked every time Big Mare got dressed to leave the house.  Surely, she'd realize the hole had gotten larger.  But she didn't mention it.  If she did notice, she never let on.  She pushed the condition of her coat to the back of her mind, and she taught me to do the same.

Pretend it isn't there.  After a while, it won't matter as much.


Michael Francis and I sit across from one another at Tony's Luncheonette, a greasy spoon right up the street from my aunt's house.  Joan and Big Mare brought us here.  We are killing time, waiting for the older kids to get out of school.  My cousin and I are still too young for full days of education, just a few hours at kindergarten in the morning.

I can't figure out if Michael likes me.  My guess is no.  Aunt Joan's youngest child is quiet and self-contained.  I am neither of those things.  I picked him some dandelions before we got here, but Michael is disinterested.  The flowers lay on the table, wilting.  Now, they look more like weeds.  I should have known that he probably wouldn't want a bouquet.  I don't know much about boys.  I generally feel anxious around my cousins, even though we are related.

Mom and her sister meet here often for coffee and cigarettes.  We eat grilled cheese while our mothers bullshit.  Lunch comes with a pickle spear.  I don't want that thing anywhere near my food.  I rake it to the edge of my plate with a fork and try to forget that it's there.

We are trapped in this booth between these two angry women.  They talk about grown-up things.  There is always drama that needs to be discussed and rehashed. I do not recall being involved in any of their conversations.  We are children with nothing significant to contribute at this point in our lives.  Besides, the scenarios they describe seem far too complicated, anyway.  Manipulation is a baffling hobby.

I am officially dying of boredom.  Michael was smart enough to bring two little cars with him.  He drives them back and forth through the contents of a sugar packet.  I have a coloring book but no crayons.  Upon further inspection, I realize that I've already scribbled on every single page.  I color recklessly.  Even I am unimpressed with my work.  I stare at what my cousin is doing.  He looks up and sees me smiling.  He does not smile back but continues with his efforts.

After lunch, everything on the table is too disgusting to stare at anymore.  Big Mare and Aunt Joan smoke and stamp their butts out in the crusts of our sandwiches. They flick their ashes into our half-finished Cokes.  Lipstick is smeared across the rims of both coffee cups.  I look through the front door and turn my attention to what's going on outside the restaurant.

Two Con Edison workers are peering into a manhole.  They stop what they're doing to stare at a young lady running across the avenue.  They say something to her, and she smiles.  Her outfit is pretty.  It's also very short and may be a little too small for her.
"That's disgusting," Mom whispers under her breath.
"Hey, I know her," Joan says.  "That's Monica.  She works at the bakery."
"She's lookin' to get raped, dressed like that," my mother adds.
"No," my aunt disagrees.  "She's a doll."
The men keep whistling and calling out as Monica continues on her way.  Finally, she turns around and gives them the finger.  They seem to love it.  They laugh and slap one another on the back.

I hear buzzing right near the window.  A large horsefly is also being held prisoner in this diner.  He noisily zips along the dirty sill, frantic for an opening.  I think about the cigarette burn in my mother's pink coat, which is right on the seat next to me.  I quietly search for the hole in the sleeve and when I find it, I ease my finger inside.

That's much better, I think to myself.

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