McDonald's Baby (EXCERPT)
A birthday gift for my sister
The following is an excerpt from a memoir I intended to dedicate to my sister. Today is her birthday. I thought I would complete an entire memoir by today because I am delusional. I hope you can at least enjoy this excerpt and leave the nastiest comments you can so that I learn from my hubris. Or, if you’re feeling nice, wish a happy turn-around-the-sun to my favorite 29-year-old who shares a birthday with… Constantine? Chelsea Clinton? Who knows. I’m fully onboard the “TikTok and its consequences are destroying Western civilization” train because who the hell are these people clogging my perfunctory Google search.
Anyway. I love you, R.
Mom lied to the cop, claiming she couldn’t show him license and registration because, uh, they were in her purse at home. The cop just stared, hands on his holster. So Mom continued, scrambling for foreign scraps of language that could render her legible to him. “Just driving these two to school.” She jerked her head toward me and my sister in the backseat. “In a rush. Forgot my purse. Couldn’t even put bra on.” Hahaha. “Won’t happen again. My mistake. Bad mistake!” She forced a second guffaw and bared her teeth. The cop kept staring. Beside Mom was an empty passenger seat, and perched on the steering wheel were her compliant hands, polka-dotted by age and cracked by eczema, fingers scaly and inhuman.
Almost everything Mom said was true. Two hours before the start of the school day, before the morning bell at Rio San Gabriel Elementary would distinguish those who were present from the unseen truant masses, Mom was the first to peel herself from the bloodstained mattress that lay on the floor of our apartment bedroom. We all slept on that mattress, the three of us. Mom laughed when she cooed me and my sister back to sleep, watching our barely-sentient bodies fight over the priceless real estate she’d just relinquished. But she stopped laughing when my sister and I woke up screaming, abducted from our dreams, our flesh erupting from bedbug bites. Her years of childrearing wrought to this: blood kept warm for the benefit of parasites accruing nightly feasts. Mom could only watch as we attempted to scratch our forearms and ankles and spines back to dormancy, our fingers in laggard pursuit of theft already committed. Our skin didn’t just itch; our scratching rendered us accomplices to our self-immolation, yielding nothing but red blisters and black fingernails.
So Mom left to microwave Pop-Tarts for breakfast. She flipped the switch to the bathroom light. One of six bulbs flickered. She pissed. The toilet had no handle, so she flushed by reaching into the tank and pulling the chain. She washed her hands. They stung, so she lathered them with lotion, and once she did, she smiled at her reflection in the shattered mirror and saw the face of a girl that skipped along pink cherry blossoms and frolicked with her dog in the front lawn and took girls’ trips to snow-capped mountains and saved up for the perfect pair of high-waisted jeans and giggled when platoons of suitors offered her everything from onion rings to designer jewelry and then, hearing my sister wince, turned away from her reflection and lumbered toward the kitchen, past the orange mold coating the walls, past the sealed pantries where mice squealed and suffocated, past the grimy window framing the smogged Los Angeles horizon, past her decades-old purse held together by duct tape and prayer. The sink was clogged with dishes. Mom sighed, rolled her sleeves, and Dad asked from the living room sofa if he could have money for cigarettes.
What happened with the cop? Where’s the McDonald’s? Will Jonathan and his sister ever get the Pop-Tarts they deserve? Subscribe and stay tuned ooooooOOOOooOOO