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She Hates Numbers

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I was thirteen the first time I had to lie to the police to protect someone I loved, a short story

illustration mom hit the boy on the bike

I was Thirteen the First Time I Had to Lie to the Police to Protect Someone I Loved, a short story

I was thirteen, in my first year of high school, and one afternoon I was home watching TV by myself while my mother went to pick up my little brother from nursery school. The doorbell rang: a police officer stood outside, tall and broad and scary. He had gleaming handcuffs and an oily looking gun buckled to his belt; a long black stick with ominous scuffmarks hung at his side. “Your mother’s okay, but she’s been in an accident,” he said. Less than an hour ago I’d seen the way her whole body swayed as she went out the door. Her empty glass was sitting right behind me in the kitchen, unrinsed and still reeking of Scotch.

Even now I see my mother’s face, soft and drunk, pale and frightful, moving through the darkness, soaring over me as mysterious and unreachable as the moon. Her affection waxed and waned, never constant. When she’d had enough to drink, she loved me, but the way she went about her mother love, pulling at me with sorrowful, clumsy arms given unnatural strength by liquor, made my flesh wither under her touch.

“She hit a boy on a bicycle,” the policeman said. “Do you know if she’s been drinking?” he asked. He shifted his weight from one leg to both legs evenly, spread his feet wider on the cement walkway and moved his arms from his sides to his belly, holding his hands together down low at his belt.

“No,” I answered the policeman, looking unflinchingly into his eyes, which was excruciating but imperative, I knew, if I wanted him to believe me. “She hasn’t been drinking.”

My mother had skin like rose petals, eyes like a fawn’s. There were the rare times when she forgot to be sad, if only when some equally sad eyed man noticed her. If a man loved her to the point of obsession, to the point of contemplating suicide, she imagined she might find the strength within herself to survive, but she eventually rejected all such suitors, wanting only those who were hard nosed and cold blooded, as her father and, later, her husbands were. Remote, a source of funds and orders and criticism, the closest men in her life approved of her external beauty but not her soul. They didn’t care what she wanted: they wanted her to be like all the other girls and women, to be beautiful and obedient. They broke her will; she broke their hearts.

She was memorable for simple things: her rose garden and her Scotch and water, her menthol cigarettes and her Pucci nightgowns, her ladylike hands and her A cup breasts, her bitterness, her resignation, her unending string of sentimental, alcoholic boyfriends. She taught me how not to be. How not to live. A psychic once told me she was my one true soul mate in this life and that my heart had been broken the day I was born, that first hazy time I looked into her eyes and saw nothing there for me. One normal thing I remember is hanging clothes out to dry with her in the backyard when the dryer was broken. Once, she even took me out to the movies.

“Are you sure she’s not drunk?” the policeman said. His face was a smooth blank, revealing nothing, but then so was mine. “She’s acting pretty out of it.”

“She gets that way whenever she’s really upset,” I said.

“We need you to come take care of your brother,” he said. “While we decide what to do.”

The policeman herded me into his car, and we drove to the place Mom had the accident. They’d already taken the boy away in an ambulance; all that remained was his bright yellow bicycle, its frame horribly crooked, its front wheel bent almost in half, sprawled on the ground in front of my mother’s car, a powder blue Cutlass Supreme. I glanced offhand at the front of the car, afraid to look too long, afraid the policemen would be able to tell something from the way I acted, but I didn’t notice dents or blood or anything. Even without that, the bike, obviously brand new before the wreck, was as frightening as a dead body. Mom was sitting in the back of another patrol car, and her eyes were red, her face was wet.

My three year old brother sat beside her, and I could tell he hadn’t cried yet, but I could tell when he did it was going to last a very long time. Then I wanted to tell the police she was drunk, yes, she was drunk today and every single afternoon of my life, but the way she looked — her beautiful hands trembling as she smoked — temporarily severed the connection between my conscience and my voicebox. I couldn’t talk at all, because I knew I’d cry. I’d protect her from the police, make sure she wouldn’t end up in jail, but later, I would coldly steal money from her wallet, cigarettes from her purse, clothes from her closet. In the end, the boy on the bike died, and she died, too.

Toward the end, my mother said she was on fire from the neck down. Her arms and legs felt like they were glowing, orange red, molten. But her head felt like a block of ice. She was emotionally or spiritually paralyzed, she said, and worried about whether the condition was permanent. She felt like the nerves from her head down to her body were cut, and she didn’t know if they would ever grow back.

Right before the end, she said she could not distinguish life from dreams; she slept little, ate even less. She didn’t feel mad, she felt terribly, irrevocably sane. Everywhere she walked the ground seemed on the verge of opening up into blackness, into fire. If only she could go mad, she said. When I found her cold and stiff on the living room floor, she wore nothing but blue nylon panties and her white gold wristwatch, given to her by her own mother in 1958.

A watch which is in my jewelry box, upstairs, right this second, and which I wore to the Palm Sunday service, yesterday, at Holy Faith Catholic Church. I took Communion from Father John, even though I am not now, and have never been, and never will be, officially a Catholic. My friend Clyde, my dear friend, mentor, and fellow lawyer, told me that he thought I would still be eligible for Heaven, regardless of what the Catholic Church, as an institution, might determine.

Because of all this, and a couple of other things which I won’t bother to mention here, I had to hold myself very still, and open my eyes a bit wide, during the reading of Jesus’s betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane in order not to allow the fucking tears to drop out of my eyes. Yes, I am a liar. So sue me. Good luck!


Filed under legal writing, mysterious, prose poetry, short stories

sous la langue (under tongue), by nicole brossard

illustration sous la langue

I did not write this, but it has long been something that I thought worth reading…

Author:  Nicole Brossard, (translated by Susanne de Lotbiniere-Harwood).


The body salivates, yet nothing is foreseen, not the wealth of touching, nor the furtive slowness, the exact frenzy of mouths.  Nothing is foreseen, yet at eye level is where the body first touches everything, without foreseeing the naked skin, and it needs saying, without foreseeing the softness of skin that will be naked even before the mouth signals the state of the world.

Nothing here to suggest that at the slightest touch the gaze already falters wanting already to foresee such a rapprochement.  Nothing is foreseen other than the breathing, the sounds resounding flesh to flesh.  Does she frictional she fluvial she essential does she, in the all-embracing touch that rounds the breasts, love the mouths’ soft roundness or the effect undressing her?  Nothing is foreseen yet at body’s uttermost the skin will image the body for without image there is nothing at body’s uttermost images shatter the state of the world.

You cannot foresee so suddenly leaning towards a face and wanting to lick the soul’s whole body till the gaze sparks with furies and yieldings.  You cannot foresee the body’s being swept into the infinity of curves, of pulsings, every time the body surges you cannot see the image, the hand touching the nape of the neck, the tongue parting the hairs, the knees trembling, the arms from such desire encircling the body like a universe.  Desire is all you see.  You cannot foresee the image, the bursts of laughter, the screams and the tears.  The image is trembling, mute, polyphonic.  Does she frictional she fluvial she essential does she all along her body love the bite, the sound waves, does she love the state of the world in the blaze of flesh to flesh as seconds flow by silken salty cyprin.

You cannot foresee if the words arousing her are vulgar, ancient or foreign or if it is the whole sentence that attracts her and quickens in her a desire like a scent of the embrace, a way of feeling her body as truly ready for everything.  Nothing is foreseen yet the mouth of bodies commoving aroused by the words by instinct finds the image that arouses.

You cannot foresee if the state of the world will topple over with you in the flavour and surging motion tongues.  Nothing is foreseen yet the shirt is half-open, the panties barely away from the cleft and yet the closed lids and yet the inner eyes are all astir from feeling the tender in the fingers.  You cannot foresee if the fingers there will stay, motionless, perfect, for a long while yet, if the middle finger will move O ever so slightly on the little pearl, if the hand will open into a star shape at the very moment when the softness of her cheek, when her breath at the very moment when the other woman’s whole body will weigh so heavily that the book where it rests gives way under the hand, the hand, at the very moment when balance will become precarious and thighs will multiply like orchids, you cannot foresee if the fingers will penetrate, if they’ll forever absorb our fragrance in the image’s continuous movement.

Nothing is foreseen for we do not know what becomes of the image of the state of the world when the patience of mouths lays being bare.  You cannot foresee from among the waves the one the unfurling one the split second that will image in the narrative of bodies whirling at the speed of the image.

You cannot foresee how the tongue wraps round the clitoris to lift the body and move it cell by cell into a realm unreal.

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