When my parents split up, my mom dated so many men
that it now takes two memories to keep them all, mine and
my sister’s. In a recent phone conversation, I said to my sister,
remember the one who said his tan wasn’t his tan but his Cherokee
blood? Remember how he used to take his place at the dinner table,
bare-chested? Why doesn’t he wear a shirt, we asked. And mom said,
who cares, that’s not what matters. She herself wasn’t wearing much,
a nightgown that might have been lingerie.
He wanted to know our favorites. Our favorites?, we said. His favorite
spot to sleep was on a roof, his favorite chocolates were Jezebels. What
are Jezebels?, we said, trying to call our eyes away from the jounce and perk
of his muscles under his naked skin. You’ll see, he said. But we never
did see what Jezebels were.
He had pretty Jesus hair. He had the weak lavender eyes of an alcoholic.
What a scummy little love story! I guess it’s what she needed, at the time.
When she’s scared, if she’s empty, anything will fill a woman’s blood. No,
said my sister, I don’t remember him, not at all. Then she said,
remember the one she met in the hospital? Remember when he tried
to change the light bulbs in her ceiling fan? He fell from the ladder, tore
his hand open on the floor and begged for me to call 911. I was afraid
to call 911. I had never done it before. While we waited for the
ambulance, he said he was happier in the hospital, anyway. But they
don’t plop a man back into the psych ward for slicing open his hand,
so, I’m not sure what he was up to …
He thought that vitamins were twined with poisons, that he had died
three times in his sleep, that his spirit had slipped to these copper
mountains laced with cobalt waterfalls. It wasn’t any place on this
planet, he said. When I relayed this story to mom, she said, who cares,
that’s not what matters. No, I said, I don’t remember him, not at all.
When our parents split up, our mom dated so, so many men that it now
takes two memories to keep them all, yours and mine, and even then,
who knows, there are maybe a few who have gotten away from us.
If we had another sibling … to tell us of the ones we’ve both forgotten.
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