She found me on the couch, sat where my mother would, pulled me closer as if I’d been missing. In her arms, my little body fit snug and uneasy. She brushed her hand through my hair, Good kid, she said, in a motherly tone. We were in the TV room, in the soft light of a shaded lamp. My mother was upstairs, or downstairs, folding clothes, probably singing, maybe showing my sister how to be ladylike. I looked for her, turned my head into the smiling woman’s face. At the shelter there were many mothers, some hiding out from rough men who sought solace in punching bags; some baggy-eyed, hadn’t slept for days, some unsure if the night light would bring another shadow into their rooms, into the wombs of their lives; others were trying to start over, to breach the wall, break the cycle, they all were outside. Meanwhile, the smiling woman who gave me Yogi Bear Kool-Aid when it was too hot out for games and coffee-cake during commercial breaks, who smiled long and sideways at my mother, pulled a cover over the two of us, took my little hand, selected two fingers, and placed them in her pants. I couldn’t see where. But where was fleshy, hairy; some kind of fruit I thought. Her voice moved through my fingers like blood, Play softly, she whispered.
October 4, 2010