Sunday, May 21, 2006

My Letter of Apology

It starts in a service station bathroom beside the comfort of a Kansas cornfield. The sizable room is wild with wet summer evening heat and impatience. I am nine and dizzy with fear and the walls are rolling. I'm not even sure I can hear what she's screaming anymore and though the room is crowded, I don't feel the other women are there. Like the moment right before the moment when the book finally closes your eyes to sleep, my vision is alternately blurry and sharply focused and who knows how it draws in and out. When I can see, I see her eyes and how she isn't really all there, the one I know, and I wonder who this is in the room with me after all. And I wonder how I could spin the tape backwards, since spinning is the way things are moving, and if I could just get back in time fifteen minutes when I left the car without my tennis shoes, I would. Because it really wasn't worth all this trouble, just to have the pure joy of running through a Kansas cornfield barefooted and being held with the warm and open hand of a midsummer Kansas night's sky, even though she said not to. Even though no one had ever been able to keep shoes on me my whole long life, not even for my aunt's wedding, when I was three and a stubborn flower girl who wanted her feet touching the ground. Where is my aunt right now but in the station wagon with the cousins and not helping me at all right now. What must all these strange ladies be thinking right now, here in this madhouse room with the walls gone wavy and smelling of wet concrete and the unstable floor and the rattle and hum of the hand-dryer that sounds like my new headache. And me crying so hard I'm hiccupping and unable to stop the convulsions even though she keeps yelling at me to stop, and shaking me to stop. What are they thinking, these strange ladies grooming their hair and daubing the sweat under their arms and applying coral lipsticks and frosted pink lipsticks and the strangest one of all is the one in front of me and maybe if she'd just keep her hands off me I could breathe and then my eyes would clear like that perfect evening sky outside and then I could see a thing or two and tell you if the woman standing in front of me is actually my mother.

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