Our mothers were very different women. I saw yours, once,
in the parking lot behind the train station, her eyes locked straight ahead and
her hand on the door.
Your mom never fought back, but once your dad got out of the truck I saw her blink back
her tears and fix her make-up in the mirror,
covering up the face of a woman who couldn’t run.
If nothing else, my mother knew how to run.
That September, we walked to the baseball fields by your grandparents’ house and my school shoes got dirty but I didn’t care.
I’d tell my mom I missed the bus and she’d stay quiet because her ex-husband used to drive me home. I’d start spinning and you’d grab my arm a little too tight and look at me with this funny face I mistook for love.
I bruised easily as a child (and that’s what I was — a child)
so the next morning I’d wear long sleeves and wait for you by your locker.
There was a place for us, I swear it, with beer and honey in the fridge and
a screen on the door. But instead we’d stay out late on weeknights and
I’d get in the car even when I knew you were too drunk to drive.
When we got home you’d make me empty my pockets. “Pick one thing,” you’d say,
and I’d pick out an old gum wrapper or a scrap of ribbon or half a business card
and you’d tack it to the wall next to all of last week’s treasures. You’d throw out the rest of the day’s findings to make room for tomorrow’s.
Now that we’re grown I can’t help but feel jealous that you took Kathy to the ER when her guts spilled out. I was a little overripe and you left me there
to rot on the concrete floor.