How to Hum in Public Politely
After the mastectomy, my mother's breasts float in formaldehyde. She said it was important to remember her womanhood, so they made their way to the bookshelf of family pictures, in front of my dad's face.
Roberto's 19 and he's lost a leg and not really over it. We started taking baths together when my mother leaves, and I scrub his body, his legless hip, with a loofah. He sings songs about his phantom leg and I bop my foot up and down, seesawed over my other leg.
After my mother left him, my dad wrote a novel in English and then used one of those Internet translators to get it into Japanese and then back to English. He had it self-published. It included a Polite Public Humming Manifesto. He told everyone that he first wrote it in Japanese but translated it for the American reader.
Roberto was adopted by our neighbors as a baby. We think Roberto is Mexican. He's dark-skinned and has dark hair, and they are all red-heads. The McMullens. When they're all together, Roberto silently screams, I'm adopted!
I decided that I needed to get famous and I've gotten close a few times. I was on television once. A Christian group was interviewing students about their faith and I let them ask me a few. They wanted to know if it was hard to be a teenager in today's sexed-up world and I told them how hard it was to not give in to temptation and then they asked me about the mercy of Jesus Christ and I told them a few things I knew about that. It felt good too. Like they must have just known that I was wholesome looking and I would be the one they should ask about that sort of thing. They screened the film at a mega church, to thousands of people, and they all saw my face. My dad wasn't there, but he called to let me know that he heard about it.
My mother's boyfriend, Oliver, looks like a half-interested bank teller. He comments on the elegance of a flat-chested woman.
Roberto asked me to go to the graveyard with him to go see his friend. We both cried over the molded stone and then spent the rest of the day making each other feel better. The next week we cried over another. Then another.
I saw Cindy Groom interviewing people at the Midnight Madness Shopping Spree and it was the second time that I got close to fame. I made eyes with her. I'd seen her the other evening on News Channel 12.
Last week my dad started building a bird's nest in his attic. He said he thought it was conducive to families and he wanted to see my mother come back to him. Inside, he tacked up a poem that my mother had written while they dated:
We started bringing picnics to the graveyard and I brought peaches for Roberto. I knew they were his favorite. He kept the stringy pits in his room and made tinfoil hats for them. It was like having children or a dog together. Little products of our love.
I overheard my mother on the phone with my aunt. She was planning how she would tell me she was pregnant with my new brother. Oliver was going to make gnocchi and we would talk about it over dinner.
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