Tasty, crusty seasoned salt on some kind of toasted bread,
Something like pastry dough but thicker.
That’s what was served earlier at the party,
Before we parted ways and got sick.
From this distance, he is perfect, like a little figurine. He swings his rosy-pink arms, tosses his too-large head, turns to speak to the boy behind him. That smile, sweet as tea— it’s wider and kinder than I remember. He’s growing into his limbs, and into his own dear skin; I was worried he never would. As long as he’s nothing like his sister, he’ll be fine.
Just let me reach out and touch him. No, I will only say hello. From far away, he is beautiful, he is so beautiful and for all the world I would not spoil this. His friends and his favorite things, the sunshine and the dew, soccer on the lawn, I must not touch one mite of it. But he needs to know how proud we are, and he needs to know I care. Only one step closer, and I’ll shout his name.
Haven’t I cursed him enough? He was in my shadow since a child. From here, in the street, not in his orbit, he‘s a figurine. He‘s perfect because I can’t reach him. He runs with his odd gait toward the ball, craning forward, grinning at a small blonde girl. All the children laugh, and I laugh with glee because I can watch him, enjoy the brilliant light that is him. From here, I can love him for him and not for what he is to me.
You Wouldn’t Really Love Me
You wouldn’t stand around and watch me tear up the carpet and paint the ceiling and rip out my hair and scratch my arms. You will leave if I quit taking my pills, or if I take them all at once. If I scream and whisper or walk down the street in the middle of the night or sit in my cold bath too long, you will say, “To hell with this,” you will stop praying to God for me and you will go pray to an institution. You will stop picturing me smiling in the sun and you will leave. If I can push you away hard enough. “I hate you,” I say, “and your dog and your dad and your friends and your job.” You wouldn’t stay and listen, because that would be too much. Far too much for you to bear. And finally, when you are gone, my antics will never ever be able to hurt you again. You will be free.
But you’re still here, on the other end of the tin can phone. You still knock on the door frame, 2 knocks for “sweet dreams,” and you trudge up the stairs to bed. You sound so tired. You had a sandwich for supper, and you made me one too. Your best friend’s getting married tomorrow. We were meant to go. But then there was me. You cancelled your trip and your plans and your future. And you’re still here, at the top of the stairs. Tomorrow and the next day and the next. And I realize with horror that you really will love me no matter what.
He Wasn’t Even White!
You were 6 years old the last time you saw me. You won‘t remember where, but you can try. Okay, I’ll tell you: it was in the hallway of your grandmother’s old house, the house with the one weird plywood wall, the one painted a vomitly pale green. You don’t remember the picture hanging on that wall because you never looked at me. I was boring. I was dark. And I was really just a blur, the whole hallway was. Your grandmother had a great big rickety wooden bed you would jump on, trying to touch the ceiling fan with your fingers, until the fan just about chopped them off, and you ran down the hall to your grandmother’s kitchen in your fuzzy socks, crying. This is the only time you ever saw me, the painting in the hall, because your grandmother took me down the next week, the same time she hauled the ceiling fan off to the dump. But if you ever looked closely, you would see I’m really just a cheap 16-inch reproduction of a some European artist’s European, blue-eyed Jesus, originally oil on wood, now printer ink on poster board. I really don‘t look much like the guy at all. But I remind you of him. And when you see me again in the back of a dusty thrift store, sandwiched between a Norman Rockwell and a crude watercolor dolphin done by someone‘s Aunt Terry, you’ll know me. When you see me in the little boy’s room room at the dentist’s office, you’ll know me. And when you see the real thing someday— not the version of me that’s hanging in the museum, no, not the original— the man himself, you’ll see him and you‘ll think, “Well, by George, the picture really look nothing like him at all, but I can see what they were going for!”
Me and my friend Nehemiah are gonna enter a race. The race is called the Turkey Trot. I hope to lose a pound on that Rick Harrison and this is my pawn shop. I run it with my old man and my son Big Hoss. The thing about a pawn shop is you never know what’s gonna come through that door. Anyways, Nehemiah and me are arguing about what to name the team. I think it should be the Cat Poop Cookies, Poopies for short. He thinks it should be called the Nehemiah Nematodes. I won’t argue with him because he is my dearest friend, and because he makes me smile. He is part Cherokee. If we win the race we will win $25 cash. He owns a plumbing business and having that collateral would really help us to expand the partnership and do more toilet tank installations. Once at Nehemiah’s birthday party I pooped in the tank instead of the bowl and that’s what inspired me to do this line of work. Anyway the brown water flowing into the toilet bowl was mildly amusing, and Nehemiah thought so too, though not until several years later.
Do you laugh ‘cause it’s funny, or laugh ’cause it’s sad? Grown men in makeup and big pants. My laugh is hoarse since I was up most of the night. But it’s so fine to be here with you under the big top. I’ll follow you to the popcorn stand. Let’s feed the alligators.
Three stories for you
Wedding guests wear their Sunday worst.
Darkness inherited from both family lines.
Happy birthday! Goopy pink ice cream.
He's at our house every day. My mom has supper on the table at 4:30 in the afternoon these days, instead of 9 p.m. It's because we've had company the past few weeks-- my dad's childhood friend, then my grandparents, now this big-boned, baby-faced boy. He might love me; I think he does. Although, he told me when we were standing in the yard that his parents are getting a divorce, and that's really why he's here so much. I can't believe it. I've met his siblings, but not his parents. Apparently his mom has issues. Apparently she's like me.