Her hair efficiently braided, long thick tail
of dark luxury, even darker than her eyes so deep
and brown like rich earth. She stands lithely
athletic, not noticeably tall; taller than I enough
to play protective older sister, instigator of
mischievous games. Her coloring is soothing,
her form made for dancing. My mind makes these
sketches. It collates, memorizes with clear
emotion, etched impressions. I will not take
from our time together with worry over what life
might make of her.
“I look more like dad. He would say if he were a
beautiful, charming young lady. He is good looking,
movie star handsome, attractive in that self-assured
top of the world mystique he assumes. Their woman
friends, social acquaintances really, liked to make it
clear in their faux subtleties that my mom had it
far too good.
Back then she out-classed them in looks, smarts,
natural gracefulness not bought from stylists or tutors.
She is still pretty, under all the sad fatigue, like those
beautiful corpses in horror shows. Maybe you could
see her sometime, look into our window. She sits there,
on the couch she sleeps on, drinking into the night until
she gets to unconscious release, not really sleep.
I stay out of her way mostly, read, draw, sew, write in
my journal, get through my homework, in our one
bedroom. I don’t want to deal with zombie mom.
I know, I seem pretty heartless, like I don’t care about
her. The problem is I care so much, with nothing I can
do to reach her, shake her out of it. She wants to be
that close to not living. She would probably happily,
or at least effortlessly, drink herself to death if she
didn’t feel the pressure to pay the bills, keep us going,
Autumn is quiet, pensive. I see the film of almost tears,
the slight quiver, her facial features setting into
determination to stoicism.
“It’s not your fault,” I say. I hold her warm hands in
my cold, smaller hands. I am not experienced in
comforting. How am I to know about bonds,
responsibilities, between mother and child?
Soon Autumn will be back in contentious reality.
What can I offer to carry her, to protect her from
ravages of that love, that responsibility? I can not
guard her days out in the horrid world. I can not calm
or rectify her nights imbedded in her mother’s sad
defeat. I can be but imaginary playmate, solid
companion in our private world for the hours we share.
I can offer brief safe passage through the moments of
menacing night between here and her unhappy home.
For now I listen in intense empathy. My eyes, my words,
my hands, offer what comfort she can take from them,