It’s winter and we’re late for school and Mom’s mad. She’s said shit three times already. My little brother, Dylan, when he was a baby went right from sitting on his ass in a diaper to walking. I read there can be a developmental delay in children that don’t crawl. Dylan would be a good case study. At age 12, he blinks slow, he speaks slow, he’s making us later by putting his shoes on slow.
Mom says shit again. She can’t find her boots.
“I knew it was going to snow. Why didn’t I put my boots out?”
She talks to herself. All. The. Time.
“They were right here,” she says, and she spins in the garage. Her eyes comb the shelves of paint tins and gardening trowels, deflated inner tubes. “And now I’m late for work and my feet are going to be wet.”
Suddenly, “OK! Let’s go! What are you doing standing around?” It’s hard to keep up. We leave the garage and approach the van.
I’m three months away from getting my driver’s license. I’m failing art, my boyfriend wants to feel me up, and I just want to be left alone.
The van is an ice cube in the driveway.
“Jesus Christ. God. Please don’t tell me,” Mom says, decibel 10.
She warms her keys in her hands and looks to the sky before trying it. There’s no play. The door lock is frozen. She drops her purse on the chunky ice of the driveway, squats, plunges her hand into the guts and pulls out a lighter. She attempts to heat the key with the flame. She alternates, lock, key, lock, key.
“PleaseGodpleaseGodpleaseGod,” and still … nothing. I pop in my ear buds, but not soon enough to miss the guttural sound she makes.
Dylan holds onto the basketball hoop pole for fear of slipping. He has no balance whatsoever. Mom stands, hands on her hips, high heels tentatively planted, and she practices a breathing exercise she read about. Puffs of air frame her profile. She is pretty. Her eyes are closed. When she opens them, I pop out a bud.
“Em. Emma?” she says. “Can you go upstairs to my bathroom and get my blow dryer? Emma? Hello?” I turn slowly toward the house in response.
When I return, Dylan is scraping a window with a credit card. Mom’s got the yellow extension cord, the one we use to hook up the Christmas lights, out to driver’s side of the van.
“Come on,” she says, as I shuffle towards her. “This will work.” She takes the blow dryer from my hands and plugs it into the extension cord.
The Revlon Ceramic 500 whines in the winter stillness, and I remember when I was little, sitting on the counter of her bathroom, watching her get ready to do stuff, to go to work or here or there. Deftly applying her lipstick without looking. I watched while she talked to herself and me, we are never not included, as she spoke her to-do list of the day.
“I can’t forget to pick up the dry cleaning and I’ve got that stuff on hold at the mall and can you pass me a bobby pin, please?”
Sometimes, she’d put bobby pins in my hair, holding back my bangs and taking my face in her hands. “There’s my girl,” she said, and moved closer, closer, closer till I could smell Crest and Eternity.
“You’re so beautiful,” she whispered, and did her hair.
Dad left us on a Wednesday. I heard Mom on the phone while she was riding her exercise bike. “Peter is leaving us on Wednesday,” she said, and kept peddling.
The dryer turning off stops my thoughts and Mom becomes the only moving person on the planet. Dylan and I watch her raise the key to the lock, hold our breath.
“Yeah!” she shouts.
A moment passes. “Yeah!” Dylan says. Mom raises her arms above his head. Dylan does the same. His mittens are Elmo sock puppets.
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