by Jon Cor
Itâ€™s snowing brass under orange lamppost night, shrapnel, the slow motion petals of an exploding Eden. Somewhere out there Mommyâ€™s feet work like pendulums; a kind of guided meditation to see her through the cold and the dark and the poor that, like her, will do anything to take care of their own.
Still, â€œHeâ€™s safe,â€ she tells her trembling self. â€œHeâ€™s in his crib. Heâ€™s c-c-crying and thatâ€™s what the pediatrician c-c-called a good sign.â€
Squinting behind the icicles forming along her eyelashes as she passes, she pretends not to see them scratching in and out of the shadows in search of everything from a penny to a cigarette to Godâ€™s for-better-or-for-worse attention. Hunting and gathering in a technologically advanced yet remedially stratified society as if sentenced at random to live within some have-notâ€™s time paradox.
Here, downtown, where the American Dream is to most the American Nightmare, Mommy has to double knot her guts as if double knotting a shoelace.
Because when she gets in sheâ€™ll put her tips in the tip jar. Sheâ€™ll put her costumes in the laundry pile. Sheâ€™ll say, â€œIâ€™m here,â€ as rehearsed. â€œWant your Pablum? Oh yes you do, yes, yes.â€ Then, as the day flips itself sunny side up she calls it, a coin toss, sheâ€™ll do whatever it is youâ€™re supposed to for your son. Sheâ€™ll sing. Sheâ€™ll coo.
Sheâ€™ll put you back in the crib and the needle back in her arm.
(the slapping of slippers)
â€œHi,â€ Mommy answers. â€œHi, hi.â€
â€œWhat the fuck is wrong with you?â€
Well, for starters, her ass feels shaped to the toilet after the kind of â€œdefecationâ€ you know youâ€™ll be back to finish off later, like a grudge, but she doesnâ€™t say so. Itâ€™d be â€œ â€“ inappropriate and unbecoming to speak so informally to a long-term employer and â€“ â€œ blah, blah, blah, OK, OK, she gets it. Instead? She looks at the calendar.
She looks at the clock.
â€œOh, God. I am so, so sorry. Iâ€™ll be in shortly. I can catch the â€“ â€
â€œLuce? …SHUT. UP. I canâ€™t afford to employ your lopsided tits at my own expense,â€ says the voice on the line. â€œI have my clients to consider.â€
â€œWhoâ€™s laughing! I hear laughing.â€
â€œWhy, you wanna give â€˜im an excuse too?â€
As its owner palms the receiver to muffle a snicker or something, that voice? It goes snap, crackle and pop the way Mommy imagines it would sound were he to spontaneously combust.
In the meantime she prepares to say I donâ€™t know where the father of my child is, Iâ€™m relapsing and I shouldnâ€™t breastfeed on a methadone prescription. To say do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
To say hey itâ€™s Tuesday.
Tuesdays are like this.
But, â€œIâ€™ll be there in like forty minutes,â€ she surrenders.
â€œTwenty â€“ ?!â€
It feels like the Ascension mustâ€™ve felt to Christ as Mommy lifts you up toward her breasts. In these perforated arms of hers youâ€™re just a gooey lump, sure, but in her thoughts youâ€™re the sun. You are light and warmth and goodness incarnate; an explosion of blond-haired, blue-eyed virtue sent to Earth to burn the evil away. After all, â€œWe are all of us legend,â€ she whispers, twirling Daddyâ€™s Daddyâ€™s dog tags overhead. â€œMy boyâ€™s gonna be a soldier when he grows up too hey?â€
Mommy has no idea that even you look at her as if through the windshield of a car accident.
Then again, at your no-age, you think everything is the circus. Youâ€™re either over- or under- whelmed.
At least this is what your dear mother Lucy wants to believe as she wonders if your paralytic affectation has something to do with the two of you living in an empty apartment full of shadows. Because thatâ€™s all that it is, right? Itâ€™s the overdue bills hamster caging the place like woodchips. Itâ€™s reusing tepid bathwater and acting like the stove is a heater.
She looks at the clock.
What happens if the little hand passes the big hand is sheâ€™ll be late. Is Lucy has â€œ â€“ to get weady,â€ she says, all goo goo ga ga. â€œFff woik.â€
As she bends in half to kiss your forehead, exhaling softly over its moisten revetment, you know that this is goodbye. That sheâ€™s going to leave you here where youâ€™ll wrestle with yourself â€˜til the crib hits the wall hits the wall hits the wall and the superintendent screams does she have to call the police again. You like the police, though. They wear all kinds of funny-looking stuff and say yes maâ€™am to Mommy like Daddy used to.
Whatever it is that youâ€™re missing, it smells like a man.
At first â€“ after the bank foreclosed the house and Daddy left to seek his fortune in the military â€“ Mommy would set the table for the two of them as if to complement the latest draft of a prayer for his safe return with a visual aid. Now, and please, go ahead, ask her, she canâ€™t tell you what time it is or how to get to the park from here but she can tell you exactly just how many hope-filled and letter-less Tuesdays sheâ€™s suffered.
Even now, â€œDaddy canâ€™t write to us,â€ Mommy explains, â€œwhat with all aâ€™them bumble bee bullets buzzinâ€™ aroundâ€™n tryinâ€™a likeâ€¦ like make a nest behind his eyes, yâ€™know?â€
She sighs. It isnâ€™t cute no matter how itâ€™s phrased.
Because what a movie feels like without a soundtrack? Thatâ€™s what a life feels like without someone to share it with.
Then, in a matter of you-donâ€™t-know-how-many seconds youâ€™re crying in the crib again, starving and scared of the perfume sheâ€™s misting in one hand and the lint brush sheâ€™s tugging at a bunny costume with in the other. Fuzzy. White. â€œMommyâ€™s leaving now,â€ she says over the shivering of windowpanes. â€œShh, shh, shh.â€
â€œ â€“ â€
â€œI know, baby. I know. Just fall asleep, OK?â€
â€œ â€“ â€
â€œDonâ€™t, uh. Donâ€™t freak or anything.â€
Itâ€™s only Tuesday.