The International Writers Magazine: Modern Living
Upside down, Backwards, and Inside Out
We must have been out together that night, but I don’t remember what club we were at or which band was playing. All I know is that she left the show before I did.
And when I got back to her apartment later that night, I opened the door and my brother’s friend Abe, a local biker punk in his mid twenties, was looking up at me from under the covers of her bed. (Her apartment was a studio, so her bed wasn’t far from the door.) I quickly went back outside and waited. A minute later my mother called out for me to come in. When I did, Abe was buttoning up his flannel shirt and my mother was in the bathroom with the water running.
Needless to say, I felt awkward. So I went into the kitchen and began cutting up a watermelon we had bought earlier that day. I loved having watermelon at night in the summer. When I was done slicing, I brought a plate full out to the table and began eating. Abe had finished with his shirt by this time, and was now busy tying up the laces on his boots.
“Want some?” I asked. “It’s delicious.”
“That’s okay, I should probably head out,” he said, not looking up.
When my mother came out, she sat down at the table, picked up a melon slice, and began munching away. Abe grabbed his leather jacket, and said goodbye. After he left, my mother and I both spit a mouthful of seeds out the open window and burst into laughter.
We were at the Cuban restaurant, Versailles, and I was hungry. But instead of ordering something, I sat smoking cigarettes and watching my mother and her friend Federico eat dinner. They were each having roast chicken, steamed rice, black beans, and fried bananas with cream.
© Mira Martin-Parker Nov 2012
I’m hungry, mommy, I thought, but didn’t dare say. Instead I smoked and watched them eat, since I had no money. I ran out of cash earlier that day, probably having spent quite a bit on her, buying us smokes and beer at the beach. Now I was being punished.
It’s not my problem. Ask your father for help, her eyes said. She was glaring at me over the table as she cut into a chicken thigh.
But I’m hungry, mommy, I thought.
Did Federico know that I had no money, I wondered. Did he know that was the reason I had ordered only water and was sitting there smoking instead of eating?
I’m hungry, mommy, I kept thinking.
Your father ruined my life, mother’s eyes replied.
I am hungry, mommy. I am eating a cigarette in front of you, mommy. I am getting smaller in front of you, mommy. Bits of cream and banana are falling from your lips, mommy. I am hungry, I am hungry. Never mind, don’t worry about me, I’ll just sit here and smoke and starve.
Be my guest, mother’s eyes replied, your father ruined my life.
“Beat Me” Eyes
“She has beat me eyes,” Aunt Annette said, as she laughed into the phone. She was talking to my mother in Los Angeles. I was nine years old, it was summertime, and I was staying at my aunt and uncle’s house in San Francisco. The night before I had a dream my mother was dead and it scared me. I wanted to go back to her, but I knew I couldn’t.
“Ha ha ha,” Aunt Annette laughed again into the phone. “It’s like her eyes are begging you to give her a good thrashing. Ha ha ha.”
She didn’t know I was in the hallway, listening in. Why is she saying such mean things about me? Do I really have “beat me” eyes? Do I really want people to hurt me? Is my mother laughing at this too? Is this really something that’s funny?
My mother sent me to Aunt Annette’s because she was supposedly getting her shit together. My mother was always getting her shit together. So I was always getting packed up and sent off to sleep on Aunt Annette’s couch in San Francisco.
On this particular visit, I missed my mom badly. I thought she was going to die. But I was the one that died. In the hallway that afternoon, listening to Aunt Annette talk to her over the phone, I was beaten to death.
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