Sunday, April 22, 2007

Chapter Thirteen: Inside the Small Blue Book


She drives south. There is an alternation between speed and sloth. She drives fast to hear the white hum of rubber on tar, to watch the dots of the lines fade into blends. She drives slowly out of fear. At all speeds, she drives to forget and does not.

The imagined includes cliffs, a California highway landscape. Imagined too are friends that had to be left, time that had to pass, pass, pass. A semi goes by, all American and pushing air. The path of the Volvo bows in time, in space. Always a push but never enough.

Her mind bends with thoughts of California – the early days before Bray. Simple days with her and Aiden laughing at mortality. Beatific with youth and sun, with beach-scapes far stretching into rounded mountains. Oh, the west! They were adventurers, the offspring of those heroic, hard men and women of the earth traipsing towards that other ocean. Pack up baby in a cloth covered wagon and make way for home, if you dare. She drives south, pretends its west, but from here where else can you go but down?

The birth was nothing of beauty. She did not love her son at first sight but instead in the moments afterwards – a week later, tired and hungry and Bray was too. Looking down with power and a momentary realization: this is my flesh and blood. People always say it, trite and without meaning, but that night she was feeling it.

The Night.

The night it was all flesh and blood and sirens baying at the moon. The night that it was all shoulda’ coulda’ woulda’. The moment was clear. She told the therapist later, “All I could think of was Ordinary People.”


They met over the library’s singular, dog-eared Vintage Lolita.
“Have coffee with me.” He took the book from her hand. He frightened her at a time of her life when she wanted to be frightened, so she said, “Yes.”


The tire is thump-thumping around the rim. She pulls off and is jarred intensely by the rumble strip – coarse concrete under her feet. That’s what it feels like anyway. All movement stops, which jars her more after hours of perpetual motion behind the wheel. Her legs unfold like a crickets. She feels wobbly on little feet. Irony is this: before leaving home she put on her best heals.

Children’s Hour.

Bray had been bad at baseball, and, with a child’s innocent nonchalantness, not cared a bit. He shamed her. He would, one, two, three strikes your out with a goofy grin. He’d run off the field waving at her, shouting, “Hi, Mom.” She had never in her youth imagined being someone’s mother. The act of mothering, of motherhood, was not something she qualified for with her impatience, impractical bags, and uncompromising need for her own space.

It was impossible to not love Bray. Hours were spent reading The Very Hungary Caterpillar over and over, Saturday afternoon was devoted to cupcake making for his first grade class in honor of the seventh birthday of her very own Bray Norton. All the acts that youth had scorned motherhood adored. A being that was nothing and now everything. She saw bits of her husband in Bray and in him felt that she was seeing a glimpse into Aiden’ formative years.


The car is filled with Bray’s old tapes: Raffi in Concert, Shari Lewis’ Bible Tales – a plethora of memories. But Bray never really did like the Raffi tape, always choosing instead to listen to the Pointer Sister’s song “Jump” and bounce along in his booster seat.

Mobius Strip.

Love and pity intertwined – a massive inside-outside Mobius strip. Fourth period art’s Brice with his Rumpelstiltskin straw into gold hair, Roman nose, and serious teen angst. She appreciated, as he pushed her into books of Michelangelo and the classics that this was not sympathy. There was no endless talking, no sound at all but the that of the zipper teeth releasing their intertwined grasp.

His eyes were nothing like Bray’s. Or Aiden’s.

Tea Time.

She’d have tea with breakfast, always black with honey, not sugar, and cream, not milk. She’d lean in too close over the cup, pouring in the hot water, clumping her mascara together with steam. The black coat would meld together in a kind of alien conjoining of eyelashes and paint, giving her something to feel.

Baby Shoes.

After the accident, the P.C. term that she has coined it, she’d found Bray’s baby shoes. She removed them from the shelf, hiding them safely in the back of her sock drawer. And did not think of the irony that she had hidden condoms there as a young woman.

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