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