I don’t know why I remember what I was wearing: tie-dye tank top and loose shorts past my knees no bra no shoes I went barefoot everywhere and that day the bus was empty I sat in the back just one long seat taking up too much space looking out the window smudged from greasy foreheads or fingers maybe a little girl’s head pressed against glass making hearts with peanut butter and strawberry jam hands? And that was the day my breast was sore from tiny marks around my aureole left by his braces. Train tracks he called them. It wasn’t love but it was fun and the bus hit a bump an empty beer can rattle-rolled back and forth in time with my belly sick and dizzy and full of fear I remember that rattle but I don’t know why.
I don’t know why I remember falling on the sidewalk, I just do, I do remember it solid cold grating against my cheek like a five o’clock shadow all those pebbles green and silver and yellow and tan making white concrete when you’re standing upright and I needed to be upright and not facedown tonguing the ground so I pushed myself back up into the world. It was a quiet day a perfect sunshine day a tiny breeze ever refreshing and all the quaint houses with their little green yards and beds of bright poppy flowers and sprinklers tick-ticking away a lovely neighborhood so lovely and not mine, I remember now it was the wrong bus stop and if there was a reason, I don’t know why.
I don’t know why I remember these things.
I don’t know why I remember these things about my mother: tarot cards, skinny jeans, a roach clip, a cigarette ember, white musk, a suitcase and a gun. She called me pumpkin. She divided my dark hair on each side to yank and braid and smooth and tie to perfection. My friends had a secret club they wrote her love letters and when she read them she smiled, happy for once. I remember swimming all day long, no I rode my bike all day long riding over to their houses to eat their food to take a bath in their tub to try on their clothes, play their games, any games they had so many like race cars, teddy bears, baby dolls, soccer balls, family nights, movie nights, please let me stay the night! Let me go camping with you! Let me go to the amusement park with you! I’ll even go to church! I remember a night at one house frozen on the hardwood floor no pillows or blankets or room on the bed and their house creaked so scary the shadows like claws on the walls wishing for my room my bed my mom I loved her so much I wrote her love letters, I remember. I remember my love red hot a terrible inferno.
I don’t know why I remember the bus number: 58. Route 58 from Boulder to Lafayette and back again every half hour from 6 a.m. to midnight except Saturday and Sunday good luck finding a ride then. It was the right bus the wrong bus stop. I had a little cry on the ground and heaved myself back into the world. Bold colors everywhere even on my ugly tie-dye. I wandered through the stupid fucking streets with the crappy little houses full of asshole people. The heat oppressive and my heart jackknifing in time with my heavy feet. Then there was the rattle in my pocket my fingers rolling back and forth across the label the scratch of fingernail to paper and plastic a ball of lint caught between my pinky and ring finger. Why would I remember that? Or how it was bright enough to want sunglasses and hot enough to want water and easy enough to swallow a bottle of pills all cotton mouthed and chalky throated and kids playing in the park, kids laughing and moms watching and dads working and all the people doing all their things and I told myself to remember it, I told myself…
…I don’t want to remember this next part.
Why I remember. Out of all the things I could remember: I wasn’t wearing a bra. I had no shoes. That my legs were hairy and I wanted to say sorry. That they were going to find the train tracks: it wasn’t love but it was fun. Everything was white lights and needles and loud machines: their hands, my head. My head especially firecrackers of blooming white flash bulbs of emergency crowding around me with distant voices and solemn faces looming full of slurred and silly gibberish. What a nonsense thing to remember but I do doctors and nurses and interns and my mother off camera and I was there too! I was there black coal fizzing out of my throat the tube so cruel to my tongue and sucking up a swirling mess sick like on a swaying ship and no balance (no bra!)I’m choking on ocean I reach for the air, or wait— I grabbed for the rail—it was metal I think, no, no—it was a wet noodle it was a fish I couldn’t catch it was a pinprick in my arm and it was a little red balloon no a little green monster no it was blurry blubbery snotty fear no more voices no more white I hear them fuzzy through a tin can and I remember the earthquake feeling a terrible shaking a volcano ripping me like an inferno a tidal wave a bitter black heart that only I could see.
*This Essay was published in the March 2017 issue of Indiana Voice Journal. Check it out!