Inquiry #1998

No, not the AIDS epidemic, nor the primordial internet. Not even Madonna, singing and dancing like a virgin onstage. I’m thinking of my mother in the doorway, her silhouette a different shape than the one I’m used to. Permed hair in poofy ringlets, baggy t-shirt, ripped jeans, tennis shoes, all smiles and bright eyes in my imagination. I’m thinking of my father, two steps in front of her, hair darker than it will be. Face shaved, unlike his fifties, all smiles and bright eyes as he asks his future father-in-law for my mother’s hand in marriage. Right now, I’m piecing together the words she told me on a car ride to Provo, a voice devoid of bitterness and malice, but still rife with disappointment. Trying to match them to my grandfather’s face, his voice, his body lying on the bed, wondering how quickly her face fell as he said: “She’s a terrible person. She’ll fight you on everything until the day you die.” I’m thinking of the moment she stops talking as we pull up to the Wendy’s drive thru, leaving the blanks to be filled in by my mind and my poetry, leaving me to write the rest of the story, trying to figure out the truth.
A. Maybe she disappears from the 
   six-foot frame, racing down the
   hallway to the front door, diving
   into my dad’s station wagon, face
   in her hands, curled up on the
   passenger’s seat. Maybe my dad
   slips in the driver’s side, and they
   wait there in the fading light. 
   Maybe a bug flies in through the
   cracked open window. She moves
   to kill it, but stops.
B. Maybe she stays silent, remains
   where she stands, while my
   father’s firm words tell my
   grandpa that he’s never been more
   wrong in his life. Maybe he grabs
   her hand, leads her out. Maybe she
   gives a polite smile before they
   exit.
C. Maybe they leave through the
   garage, quiet, not daring to
   punctuate the silence with any
   words that could make the pain
   more vivid. Maybe they make it
   outside, where he gives her a hug,
   and whispers— “That’s not true.”
   Maybe she begins to cry.
D. Maybe I scream from somewhere
   between them, a mist of stray DNA
   and twinkling futures. “She’s the
   pillar that holds up six worlds.
   She’s taught five children to be
   humble, and brave, and kind. She’s
   a glimmering soul who has not
   been dimmed by your sharp words
   and curled fists. There is nothing
   you can do to forge evil from her.” 
E. Maybe none of this is true. Maybe
   I wasn’t there, maybe they laughed
   about it later. Maybe grandpa
   apologized. I don’t know.
F. There are things that cannot be
   pieced together by conjecture and
   storytelling. There are problems
   that cannot be solved via time
   travel and regret. There are scars
   that do not fade, but I’m sitting on
   a balcony, living room lights
   streaming in through the windows.
   I know he is pressing play on the
   TV show, and she is curled up in a
   blanket, bowl of popcorn at her
   feet, maybe asleep, maybe not. I
   know they’ll retire to their
   bedroom together, hands curled
   together, silhouettes in shapes I
   know.
G. When I wake tomorrow, walking
   through the kitchen, pouring my
   bowl of Lucky Charms, they will
   exit their offices, summoned by the
   sound of my footsteps, wishing me
   a good morning, all smiles and
   bright eyes. 
H. All of the above.

By Corey J. Boren