Her fingertips brush against the tumescent flesh of over-ripened tins, impotent banana peels, and the acidic edges of violently deposited bottles. Somewhere within this seething estuary of refuse she hopes to find a solution to hunger. Clutching a bag of recently expired Wonder Bread she raises it triumphantly above her eye line. Her lover nods in acknowledgment only, his clean hands tucked into smug armpits. A pack of Big Red marks a second victory. Luxuries are scarce and heralded with enthusiasm.
Along the highway she hops into a car lover in tow, clothes and aromas disheveled and offensive. The man in the front seat is her brother, the girl her niece. She offers the girl an unmade sandwich, boasting of good fortune. That girl is me. I don’t know whether to accept or decline. More than the questionable menu (I’ve removed my share of mold for dinner) I am alarmed by her pressured dialogue and obfuscating eyes. Who is this peculiar woman palpitating asynchronously in our back seat? Who is this man confined behind surreptitious brows and silence? My dad offers up her name, a name I know through stories and gossip. She is a drug addict, this man is her lover and pimp, but above all this elusive creature is my aunt.
The car ride is awkward but polite. She is manic, talking a thousand miles a minute, content to fill the void with her side-stepping quips. She is nice in a way that suggests unpremeditated violence. She is vulgar and she is innocent. She flits carelessly through unknown stratospheres. I can’t tell what she’s taken but I suspect she’s tried everything. When she exits the car she leaves me with the pack of gum. Months from now she’ll be dead, her pimp having forced her into oncoming traffic. I’ll stand tearfully at her closed coffin knowing that whomever lies inside is both beautiful and terrifying.
This is a true story
I did a reading but the length made it very challenging so it isn’t very good