Momma’s body vanished in the night. I didn’t know if the fire igniting in my stomach was just a maddening vexation or was perhaps fumed by disgust, I just knew that it burned. Heat bumps grew abruptly on my thighs wrapped under relentless layers of wool, and then I knew that this erythema was more than just the irritation of skin, more than just earth, more than just my mother. Right then, I knew heartache.
I peeled back the unraveling coatings of fabric, then I could see. It was cold! Too cold for what Momma called “good lovin”. Momma rarely spoke about love, but when she did, she always did so while pleasantly undulating her hips as she spoke with this sweetness, hidden under her tongue like the older children did in church with their pieces of Hubba Bubba gum. Momma would dance too. Her feet were as free with the wind, as if willingly trapped on a garden heavily populated with daisies, and carnations, and hydrangeas, but only when she talked of “good lovin”. I was oblivious to Momma’s blurred lines. I was too young to understand that I had witnessed the corruption of passionate sins.
In that shelter I remember bearing the burden of loneliness more than anger. I would interminably imagine elements of that room speaking to me in order to withstand my sanity. The mattress would whisper in the form of creaking, finding its way through the wax and hairs that clogs my ears.
“Come to me!” The bed demanded.
I would always get lost in thought and was incapable of breaking the chain. I believed the unbelievable. And once I started, it was difficult to stop.
“Come to me!” I heard it screech louder than just a whisper the first time.
I watched it. I was frightened of the bed’s ability. Witnessing its eye-like pillows bleeding with desperation. I stood still. I dare not move. Silence fell like a blanket of caution covering a sterns mother’s face. The bed’s eyes released its grip on my flesh and fell onto a book.
I leaned over toward the nightstand the Bible was sleeping on. Hesitant, I let my left arm fall on the face of glory. I remember sayings about that man they called “God”. “Myths.” Momma said “Tooth fairies were more real than him.” She had this constant bone that she had to pick with this man.
I didn’t know what to think of God, or if God thought of me. The thought of me being on someone’s mind made the word love seem less of a sweet notion, and more of a feeling, some misinterpreted substance. What would I even do with love? How would I get through this night with love? Questions I knew were too vague for this book to answer yet alone understand.
“Why don’t you kneel in?” The Mattress broke my train of thought. My head shifted to the right to get a better glance of the bed. I surveyed the way its coverings slithered in a lecherous grin. It motioned me to come closer. I suggested it was my turn to speak.
“What do you want from me?” I asked with the taste of dismay lost in my throat.
It stared at me. As though I was talking to myself, as if once again I was lonely, reassuring my insanity. Silence fell like raindrops during a storm.
“Answer me!” I demanded an answer with more sternness in my tone.
“Where’s your mother?” The bed answered with a question.
I knelt there, with fog in my chest and that inextinguishable anger rising in my stomach. I didn’t want to think of where my mother was for I knew what she did to survive.
I recall when I first thought of Momma’s Job. It was Take your child to work day and I knew Ms. Paster will interrogate her third grade class on where we will be spending our precious adolescent time. She had this wickedness about her presence. An old brittle lady, “too old to teach yet too old to retire” she’ll repeat through her days in the schoolhouse. Her wrinkles encrusted much of her face and she spoke with a southern accent etched in each word she let spew out of her mouth.
“Where do y’all mama work?” Her eyes fell on the top of my head.
“My mommy works in a motel.” I answered. But she seemed displeased of my answer. I watched as she jerked in her chair and then leaned forward closer to my face, refusing to acknowledge personal space or personal hygiene, a foul odor slapped me every time she opened her mouth.
“So she’s there a maid?” she asked more with of stench then with words.
“No… shes no maid” I reassured her. Ms. Paster jerked once more in her chair and moved to the next child sitting aside to me. She had this sympathetic attitude the rest of the day.
The springs on the mattress screeches with the slightest whisper of the wind.
My legs stagnant from moving any closer, however eagerness prevented me from running away. More shame than afraid, more angry than melancholy. I couldn’t find my tongue, but I knew it had to be muffled between teeth and saliva. The clock struck two a.m. and I was tired.
My eyes have gotten used to the twenty four hour job. I no longer sleep, nightmares creep up on me like cheetahs on their prey.
“Or semen on your mother.” I heard the bed chuckle.
I stared with more fury growing in my eyes. The Bed ushered me to take a stroll on its surface, assuring my safety.
My legs trembled. Frightened of brushing my brown cigar toes against Momma’s clients’ fragments, I remained nailed to the rough burgundy carpet.
When Momma’s clients entered the room, she’ll always have this lovely fragrance coming off of her, nose candy of Palmers Cocoa butter and Jergens lotion. She’ll kneel down by my bedside and whisper:
“You wanna play a game” The sweetest I’ve ever heard Momma’s voice, while not talking about “good lovin’”. I batted my eye lashes and lifted my head to show Momma I was now awake.
“Les play hide and seek, baby” She announced while calmly stroking my head. She solemnly closed her eyes and began to count.
“1…2…3…4” her breath as steady as a baby’s heartbeat she counted. I arose from my slumber and charged for the closet and locked it behind myself. She began to undress, stripping each garment that hindered her. I watched through the crack of the keyhole as she unbuckled the mystery man’s pants. Tension arose each time she rubbed her manicured hand against his groin. I shut my eyes tight when I seen her mouth open. I began to cry, and even the tears wouldn’t wash my eyes from the blasphemy, so my tears were useless.
That was the last time she brought a client home, instead they were crocheted in each other’s arms in some red light special motel. The bed staggered closer toward me for I wouldn’t come anywhere near.
“She prays to the non-existent for you” the bed stated.
“She sometimes cries for you, and oh you know how she can cry all night” It chuckled its way through the quiet storm.
“Shut up!” I heard myself scream. The voices stopped. And I sat there.
I let rain anxiously fall from my eyes. I finally found the strength to stand up and jolt my way to my hiding space. I locked the door behind me, solemnly closed my eyes, and began to count like momma used to you.
“1…2…3…4” My breath as steady as a baby’s heartbeat. I counted
“5…4…6” I think about Momma and her sweet voice, and her flower garden, and her wind like feet, and her “good lovin”, and her Cocoa covered skin, and suddenly, her clients don’s matter anymore, and that inextinguishable fire has burned itself out, and I count.
“7…8…9…” I count and hope that Momma finally finds me here.