Bent Words

Bent Words

June 26, 2007

The scrawny little bitch.

She’s all of five feet and maybe two inches, standing in sneakers. The last time I saw her, she weighed in at about eighty pounds and I couldn’t stop staring at her knees which make up the thickest part of her body save for her head. It was late in the morning or early in the afternoon and she was sitting at my parent’s kitchen table, smoking a cigarette and drinking a cup of coffee. And a can of beer.

She’s my mother’s older sister – one of seven siblings – and she’s quickly working on being the next one to go.

With the morning sun filtering through the kitchen window, soft and unique, like a lamp with a piece of cloth hanging loosely over it, I made my way to the sink to fill a glass of water. It was early and my father was sitting on the patio. I could only see the top of him. His cream-colored Panama fedora and his sunglasses, one strong, steady hand which held his pipe and silent rolls of smoke rolling slowly through the window. He doesn’t acknowledge the water flowing from the sink just behind him. He simply turns another page in his book and waits for my cheerful “Good morning!”

My mother woke about an hour or so later, gliding through the bathroom from the master bedroom, through the kitchen and to the utility room. She poured herself her only cup of caffeinated coffee, wound her way outside and kissed my father with a sleepy smile before grabbing yesterday’s paper and retreating back into the bedroom. She watches the news, reads the paper and will greet the real world later.

I take to my father’s chair, sitting at his desk in his office, waiting for the slow internet connection to develop into something tangible, play Spider Solitaire until my e mail loads.

It was a weekday and the house and the lake and world were quiet. The neighbors in Illinois, their summer cottages locked until the weekend, and thus only fishing boats dotted the water outside.

My aunt Sharon was in the next room – my mother’s office – sleeping soundly with the fan blowing because she wasn’t use to the “damned awful silence.” She had probably been up until three in the morning, as she doesn’t sleep well, and we let her sleep until the afternoon sun “shone on her bazaza.” A German term, perhaps.

She’ll wake up late and do her hair and makeup behind closed doors, before anyone has a chance to see her. And then she’ll emerge slowly, like an old woman, with her shoulders slumped and her tiny shoes already tied upon her feet. She’ll pass me in the kitchen and grumble “Good morning” in a voice barely audible to the human ear, pour herself a cup of coffee and grab herself a can of beer. A pillow before her ass on one of the kitchen chairs.

A little later she opens the fridge and prepares a soupy mixture from a can. She lifts her shirt and uncorks a button protruding from her belly, carefully, with trembling hands and inserts a tube into her stomach while she asks how I have been. I barely take notice to the task at hand because I’m sure she would want it that way and yet I’ve never witnessed this before.

“I’d be better if I were rich but otherwise I’m good.”

Sharon then scolds me for making her laugh – the creamy liquid spurting back through the tube, leaving a little oatmeal-colored stain on her child-sized jeans. I grab her a towel and a napkin, poke fun at her inability to keep down her yogurt, “or whatever the hell that crap is,” and sit down beside her. She laughs again. More mess. Less lunch.

She’s had cancer. Twice. She has a daughter, Sara, adopted, and a husband that she seems to hate when he’s not there. She had three sisters. Now she’s down to two – my mom and their older sister Paulette. Sandy died a few years ago – probably from the stress she put upon her body. The drugs, the alcohol, the depression. Her mother and her father passed away, too. Sharon knows we think she’s next.

Sharon feels the same way.

“You’re Sara’s Godmother,” she says to my mother. “I know you’ll take good care of her when… if I’m gone.”

She’s in the hospital right now. Pneumonia. Same thing my grandfather died of in 2003. Limited visitors. Maybe we’ll find something out tomorrow. I wonder if I’ll live long like the Johnsons or die young like the Matusiewiczs.

Sharon comes out to the lake to get away. From her two kids, her husband and Sara, her dog, her life, her bills, her town. We enjoy her company, though she has to repeat everything she says. My father yells at her to speak louder and she tells him to shut up – it’s all in good fun. We watch the sun set together across the lake and, long after I’ve turned in for the night, Sharon can be found sitting on the couch in the living room, watching a scary Pay-Per-View movie, wondering when the “damned crickets will quit their nonsense.”

She complains a lot. But we love her.

Our Scrawny Little Bitch.

Written at 10:33 p.m.