Baby oil, barbies, and purging

9 Nov

Do you think the mind has selective memory? The electrician that wired my nervous system must have been a self-taught handy man because he got everything backwards.

Every now and then I concentrate on my younger years and I try to summon a pleasant memory but only flashes of scenes appear; so briefly that I question whether they happened or if I read them or saw them on TV and wove them into my fabric of childhood recollections and dreams.

Like the spark from two cables when you hot wire a car, they get my engine running for a second before they turn off and the reality is ignited again.

My father sits on the floor of our one bedroom duplex on Winter St. as my mother sits on the sofa with her legs encircling him.  I smile up at this rare treat of affection that they are exchanging.  His bulging arms and shoulders relax as my mother massages baby oil onto them – trying to ease the pain of a double shift of standing in front of hot oil, boiling pots, and the suffocating heat of the oven.  

My sister sits next to me, a cardboard box – our toy box lying between us – its contents spread around us.

My mother caresses his dark black wavy hair leaning in close to him.

I focus on my Barbie’s head, trying to squeeze the head of a Black Barbie onto the body of a White Barbie; I study the nude plastic doll and look down at my own four-year old frame and I arch my round tamale feet hoping they will look as elegant as the doll’s.

I turn back to my parents but they are bickering, the sweet moment of peace broken as anger rises in their faces and turns to pushing.

My father storms out and my mother turns to me and my heart catches in my throat as I see her desperation reaching out for help, slowly drowning in the sea of her eyes as the flicker in them dies down and she locks herself in the bathroom – gagging sounds trying to purge the disappointment that won’t go away.

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