By Arwen-Wynter Oakley 2023
I tossed a penny into the harbor because mom said it would ensure a safe return. She didn’t throw one, too. I didn’t particularly want to return to Nantucket; I don’t like sand or the people, I don’t like salt or the weather, and I don’t like the ocean. I definitely didn’t like going on vacation with her.
I tossed a penny anyways because she told me to.
I did much of what my mom said just because she told me to. Like when I hid in the closet, she talked to a man in the living room. Spoke with her mouth but not her voice.
I saw his face, but she told me to forget it. She didn’t want me to remember the men that she had over at night.
I always found my place beside the long lace dress she wore in school. “It was my first Prom dress,” she’d squelch through a pursed putty-face. The creases became channels for the rivers of tears to follow – cascading from her chin to the stained shag rug below.
I have a hard time believing she was ever that small.
On the other side of me, something that she had left there for many years “belonged to great grandma”.
It smelled like mothballs and butter.
I would sit between the two dresses of yore and watch as she put her tongue into each man’s mouth, tasting for something – though I never knew what.
One time she even bit a man’s tongue nearly clean off! He wasn’t happy and yelled a lot, but he also left. Or so she said.
She’d cry. The ugly tears. Her mascara streaming down her cheeks, and she’d apologized for everything. Then she would swing open the doors wide and grab ahold of me by the shoulders.
“I will do better, I’ll do better, we will do better. I promise you, this is only for now.”
She always said she would try harder, that it wouldn’t happen again. I never knew what she was talking about when she said it. What was it? Did she mean kissing, tasting each other, or leaving me in the closet? I’m not sure.
I never found out. I just know after that December of my sixth year with her, it didn’t happen again. She never returned.
Before I knew it, I was tasting the mouths of other girls, boys, and someone in between.