11 January 2012

Detailed Description of Home

Ahhhhhhem,” my father clears his throat while drinking coffee on the toilet. It’s a few minutes before six a.m. I was dreaming of uncooked noodles and star-shaped candies mixed with mint-flavored milk when a pudgy adolescent gray tabby pounces on my stomach for the benefit of his stomach.

I get out of bed topless, shielding my breasts with my arm, and pour a meager bowl of low-fat, high quality cat food. I get back into bed. My mother paces nervously from one end the house to the other. Coffee, prepare breakfast, soup for his lunch, kiss, goodbye. My father comes in and kisses me before he leaves. I drift back asleep to the sound of cat teeth crunching.

I wake again, this time by my own body. I put on a shirt and walk outside. The air tickles my skin. I feel cold in South Florida. My mother talks while my mind gradually moves from sleep to wake, “I am going to clean Garp's cage now,” she says. Garp is a five-foot iguana. I walk back inside and sit on the couch. The TV isn’t on.

She speed walks past the front window. I hear water spitting from the hose. The cat walks to the screen door and watches the outside from inside.

My father calls. I tell her through the screen door that he’s on the phone. She walks over dragging her feet in dark blue polka dot rain boots.

She walks back past the front window, now with a waltz tempo, still rushing. She comes inside, sits on the couch and changes her shoes, “I’ll be sad, but I’ll be happy when we finally decide to let Garp go.”

I realize life looks very different when you’re watching and listening, instead of thinking and analyzing. My eyes are open.

We put on our bathing suits and decide to bike to the beach instead of drive, “It’s good exercise, good for my bones,” she says. Pedaling down the street, we’re silent. On the side of a truck I read, ‘send a smile.’ How does one ‘send a smile’? Is it flowers? There’s no explanation. Another bumper sticker reads, ‘1-20-09 Bush’s last day.’ There’s a rainbow sticker on this car as well.

We pass some panting fat Canadians on the bridge that leads to the beach. They’re carrying oversized beach chairs, and their hair isn’t wet.

We arrive at the beach. I lay down an large, orange beach towel, take off my clothes and walk to the edge of the water. My mother eats a nectarine in the shade. The water covers my feet, then retreats, now my ankles, then back, now my knees. I raise my arms and stand on my toes. My entry into the ocean is shy, then abrupt.

I return to my towel with wet hair. I lie down on my back, untie the neck straps from my bathing suit and tuck them in between my breasts. Eyes closed, warmth. I see my mother lie next to me through cracks in my eyelids. She’s covering her aged skin with organic suntan lotion. I notice the varicose veins spidering up her legs. She’s sixty-seven, had me when she was forty-four. She raises her chin to the sky, closes her eyes and puts lotion on her face and neck. We bask in the sun for while like iguanas. My happiness is simple like an iguana's happiness. I fall asleep.

I wake up and join her in the shade. She holds another half-eaten nectarine against the sky; red and orange against blue, “Look, look at the contrast, it would make a nice painting,” she says. I see a little white sticker on the side of the nectarine, ‘Chile.’ That nectarine has traveled farther than I have, which either means I haven't traveled enough or it has traveled too much. Or both.

I ate the nectarine with her in the shade, one piece for her, one for me, so impartial, even though the fruit is in her hands. I put on my clothes, wipe the sand from my feet and we leave.

We bike home riding on the opposite side of the road. I notice a bustling Italian bakery and begin biking towards it. My mother follows. We paste our faces to the window and peer inside. Fashionable people are eating gelato and paninis. Little cakes are posed on golden platters in a golden display case.

We pass a coffee shop that isn’t Starbucks, and I'm intrigued: ‘Undergrounds Coffeehouse’. A television is creatively or lazily positioned on top of a piano. An old George Harrison movie is playing. They’re selling paperbacks for two dollars. I notice Fahrenheit 451 sandwiched between two grocery store romance novels.

We stop at the bank to take out cash because I owe my mother money. “You birthday is a day before mine,” says the teller, “same year?” I say.“Same year,” he replies. I could have left the conversation there, but I feel compelled to connect with a stranger. “I wish my mother held me in a few days longer, then I could be born on Halloween,” I say. He replies with an awkward smile. I leave with a failed attempt to socialize looming over my shoulder.

I hand my mother the money, she hands me back a ten and smiles. I smile. Maybe that's how a smile is sent.

We bike to the grocery store to get ground turkey. I was full on samples before we left. My mother grew up with very little food to eat. She revisits sample booths three or four times.

We get home, and shortly after, my father gets home. He shows me a trick for blocking a man from touching my breasts, “It’s all in the arm,” he said.

We make turkey burgers: swiss cheese, tomatoes, onion, pickles, mushrooms. We eat our burgers in the screened-in porch. The cat meows to go outside. I drink a glass of Orangina. My shoulders feel less tense, for a second, my mind pauses.