When You See Them, Say Hello

by | Jun 9, 2020 | Fiction, Issue Fifteen

Don’t say you weren’t warned, there she is my mama begging on the median strip, that busy intersection, her hair ratted, a snarled-up medusa head, her clothes blackened at the edges like a charbroiled steak. Her cardboard sign blesses me for spare change, but I’m six again, gobbling the bag of Fritos from her special cabinet where I know, I know, but hunger is its own beast with hands and a mouth and never ever any tact. And the packaging, the crinkling, it’s a siren call to the Titans, as much as I try to hush, try to hurry, she’s awake in the dark, stark raving, grabbing me by the hair, wrenching me from the bag, flinging me, the precious Fritos on the floor, a salt-coated ribbon-walkway of joy. Goddamn frigging impossible how dare you told you never listen can’t stand this you shit shit shit, I’m through. I choke in the car, carried by the collar, sobbing, begging, cowering, hiding on the floor, anything, anything, Mama, please, where we going, don’t, please, Mama, I’m sorry, I won’t touch them, promise, promise, please. But she doesn’t recognize me in my Mercedes after all these years, all this time, no one to trespass. So I drive on by. Always the hunger, waking me late at night, slithering from under her bed, a minefield of unconscious, half-naked bodies, spoons, syringes, bloody gauze, the smell of smoke, of sweat, of vomit, and always, always the hunger, a roar I can’t quiet. Back home, I dig in my closet, stuff my Louis Vuitton bag, jump back in the car. It’s for the best, the cops and counselors say after they find me out on the median strip of Interstate 94, clutching my stuffed white rabbit, my voice gone hoarse, my tongue swollen, and even then, I ate four Big Macs, but it couldn’t fill up that hunger, the hole in me that swallowed me whole, tossed me away beyond recognition. So I drive up alongside her on the median strip and roll down my window so she can peer in and no, no recognition in those dilated pupils. “It’s me, Mama. Your baby girl. It’s Lexi.” My face, the Mercedes, the expensive clothes. She takes it all in. “Lexi?” But the light turns green, and the cars behind honk-honk-honk. “You got a fiver for your dear old mom?” She flicks, fidgets, those movements jittery. “I got this, Mama,” and out comes my old white rabbit gone dirty gray, a filth that makes her face twitch, her eyes register. “Don’t need it, turns out, after all these years.” I toss it onto the median strip with the used condoms, the Frito bags, they’re empty, spilled their magic long ago, and right alongside so much trash. So much unwanted trash, trash, trash.

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