My Mother’s House

A two-story house in Chicago. My sister rocks in a wooden rocker, clicking her knitting needles but knitting nothing, chews on her cheek. She watches me.

A plump young woman walks in from the kitchen, runs toward me with open arms. I don’t know her, but I open my arms as she talks soundlessly—I can’t make out her words: omygoshmydad—pulling my head down to the crotch of her new blue jeans. I am horrified; I push her away. My sister rocking, knitting nothing and watching.

The doorbell rings. My mother, who died in 1972, glares at me, straightens her paisley dress, pushes her winged glasses up on her nose. She opens the door, smiles warmly and greets her visitor, an older woman dressed in a prim, long skirt, hose, and white blouse.

“How are you?” “Fine. “You?” “Fine.”

They start to climb the stairs, Mother leading the way.

I call out, “How long of a drive is it?”

My mother is annoyed at my interruption. The guest stops and smiles down at me.

“Oh, I’d say an hour and a half, straight west on the Eisenhower.”

“That’s not far,” I say.

“They send their hellos. They are waiting for you,” the woman says.

The women climb on up the stairs and walk down a corridor.

My cat runs into the kitchen. I follow her and watch her jump into the full laundry basket by the table screwing her body, sinking and burrowing under the clothes. I spin around and around, until I’m unable to stand. I fall against the refrigerator and onto the wooden floor, sending the cat food and water dishes flying, my brain in the vortex of a tornado.

And then I remember, I have got to get to the people in the country, waiting. I meditate myself along the expressway, sailing west over skyscrapers rising like jail bars then suburban houses in long rows, then the countryside, finally reaching the exit to the farm.

I float along the two-lane highway leading north, spotting the farm in the distance, the husband and wife and their little black-haired girl waving me in and talking all at once, excitedly, in tongues: heshereheshereheshere.

Their farm is the only building in a valley filled with winter wildflowers poking above the snow. I land and run toward them, my only true family, my loves, and they smile, all with their huge teeth protruding, all wearing ponchos and sombreros of gold.

And they smother me in darkness, and I feel them nibbling on me, the cat gnawing my right calf on the floor in Chicago, and I know that parts of my body are scattered in the stars, that I am everywhere and all. The plump girl in the new blue genes applauding, patting her groin, and saying silently, You knew it would end this way.

My sister rocking, knitting nothing, watching.



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