Tuesday, January 4, 2011

lives of rumors

Chad Fish is everything I want because he is everything I’m not. He is a snake, molting everywhere, leaving his skin on lunch tables and baseball fields and parking lots. Everything he touches slinks after him. Including me. He is confident in a way that doesn’t intrude on your pride. He speaks little and his popularity is founded in the lives of rumors and his deceptively genuine smile. He started at school only months after me. But where my presence was an instant burden—athlete, over-achiever, socialite—his was a solo blitzkrieg. He is a sniper, leaving a trail of dead before evaporating like dew on desert asphalt. He is unavoidable and I am intoxicated. It is surprising to see him in a church. He never appeared to be spiritual. Then again, no one really is at our age. We have nothing to live for and religion doesn’t give us anything to die for, so it comes down to whatever is easiest I suppose. That’s what it is for me anyway.

My mother is crying. Tragedy seems to follow her. After dad died, we left Shakopee and moved to Palm Springs. She said it was about time she lived her life. Sounded more like she was trying to escape death. It didn’t work.

Rukmani Patel, mom’s most recent accessory, puts his arm around her. I try not to think about them having sex. I imagine her fragile white fingers digging into his rounded brown shoulders. Gross. Wrong. Mr. Patel takes the yearbook photos for school, speaks his English with a think Farsi accent and smells of curry and jasmine. It doesn’t fit—him and my mom, tugging at her cardigan sweater, tucking her blonde bob behind her ear.

Aunt Augusta thought so too. I should clarify… She isn’t really my aunt. She’s mom’s best friend from third grade and like a second mother to me. She came to visit a couple months ago and never left. She was the fresh air our humid house was gasping for, bouncing her tangled yarn head of saffron hair back and forth, singing AC/DC while making tuna melts. She was my silver lining, sitting across from my mom, waving her soft hands with their long gold nails in protest. “Offer Chris’sake, Marie, don’t ya know, you two together is like a junebug in January.” Now I watch as she gives Mr. Patel a sideways glare as he draws mom’s face into the stern of his neck. All mother does is sob and sob.

It is odd to see these people—some I know, most I don’t—together in a church that has long since turned it’s back on them; all here with a finger on the thing they fear the most but can’t figure out; teammates, teachers, grocery store clerks that I’ve seen around but have never known; all with quiet hands and folded faces, breathing deep the life of the mother and her sleeping child. And in a few months, it’ll all be forgotten because it’s the easiest thing we can do.

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