Here it is....
I’ve always wanted a house on the cul-de-sac. One with green shutters and a blue door and a dog named Elvis Presley. A mailman would hobble to our mailbox shaped like a golf ball and ask me what I thought of the weather. I wouldn’t know what to say, but I’d smile and nod and let the man with the leathery bag walk down to the next driveway.
In Parma, Ohio, 1963, it’s considered normal for the mailman to know your name. It’s considered normal for the ten Bradley children to fill up the school bus with their hand-me-down sweaters and brown-bagged lunches, and for the drunk Mr. Keeler’s cat to eat tar off the pavement. And so it wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary to wait for a thunderstorm from your screened-in porch in the middle of July.
Today, the trees are bowing to our coarse brown lawn and I know a summer storm is coming. I panic, but then remember that my flashlight’s under the bed and the extra batteries are in the top drawer of my dresser. I remember this because I’m claustrophobic, but only when it’s dark. However, when I told Mother this an hour ago she rolled her eyes.
Go play outside, she said. So I sat on this doorstep and haven’t moved since. I pull at the collar of my red sweatshirt and try not to sweat. Today, the mailman would say it’s never been this hot before. But I’m wearing a sweatshirt anyways because of the breeze. Every season’s flu season, Grandmother used to say.
I sit with my back to the house so that I don’t have to look at the slanted, rusty gutter, or the pink paint flaking away from the siding. We should get that fixed, Mother says. But by now I know not to believe her.
I think it’s easier to walk away from a pink house. To sit with you’re back to it. I love going out to the mailbox in the morning to look out at the other houses and pretend that behind me, mine looks exactly the same. Grandmother used to love going to church on Sundays because she hated that thin coat of pink paint. Sometimes, if I listened hard enough, I could hear her praying for a different colored house. Or at least, I pretended I could. Because that was much more interesting than counting the linoleum tiles of the chapel floor. Even Mother, although she’d never admit it, loves going to her weekly Bridge game to walk away from the pink house. Yes, my mother plays Bridge. And although I can’t explain why, I am intensely proud of her for it.
And when a yellow taxicab had pulled up to the house—the romantic cabs you watch pull up in movies—, I strangely understood why my father stuffed his black suitcase into the trunk.
The week after he left, Mother made me grilled cheese sandwiches. I guess she thought they were my favorite, and I guess I didn’t have the nerve to tell her that they weren’t.
The grilled cheese making started one day when Mother took all the cheese from the fridge—the only food that was still in there, since Mother refused to go to the grocery store alone— and melted slices on Wonderbread using her metal iron and the stained ironing board. I never have friends over for dinner for exactly this reason: my mother can’t cook. Eating bread soggy and smushed too flat, I nodded and tried to smile with sticky cheese stretching across my teeth. Any good? Mother would ask. And then, she’d spin around and make another before I could say no, not good at all.
Late at night, after Mother made her final wet cheese sandwich and fell asleep on the couch, I’d take a preventive swig of Pepto-Bismol and brush my teeth twice. Just in case, Grandmother used to say. And I would brush my teeth again.
Then, I’d lie down on top of my plain white sheets with the fan spinning above. And just before I would close my eyes, I pressed on my kidney, or the place where I thought it should be, and checked for kidney stones.
From my seat on the doorstep, I can see a legion of boys in t-shirts and baseball caps coming towards me, and at first I’m scared. I try to stand up, if only to block the view of my pink house. Stand by the mailbox; it’ll look cooler. I worry about whether or not I put on sunscreen, but only for a moment, before the boys are calling my name. But they’re just shouting hey Kid or hey You, and I look up. I lean on the mailbox, but feel it quiver beneath my elbow. Stand up straight; you’ll get Arthritis, Grandmother used to say. I scratch at the top of my hands; I don’t want Arthritis.
Hey, you have a glove? We need one more, a boy asks. He’s the tallest, and his hair is reddish and freckles look like they were spat on his round face. But he laughs and the others laugh and I wish I were him, but only for a second.
I slip my sweaty palm into my father’s hand-me-down mitt, but quickly take it out again. Mother always tells me I was horrible at making decisions. You wanna come play? They ask again. But I hate sports.
to be continued...