rattling and purring, with (not real) diamond-topped chromies shimmering from its tires.
I couldn’t help myself. I slipped around the back, started stripping
them in the street. This old woman behind us started honking, and the
Corvette driver opened his door, shouting. But I’d just stripped one cap,
and chromies were only valuable in pairs. Nobody wanted one.
I went for the other—nearly had it, too—but the light turned and the
driver slammed the gas and drove off, pulling my hand in a snapping
turn that flung me off balance, sending me rolling in the road. My arms
were brush-burned and bleeding from the tumble, and I yelled, “Fuck
you” to the woman as she honked past.
“You all right?” Dave asked as he ran over, laughing.
“I’m fine,” I said. I dusted my knees.
“You got the one,” he said, grabbing my shoulder. But I shuddered
him off and whipped the chromie as far as I could throw it.
Dave chuckled and shook his head, the way he always would when he
figured whatever he had to say wasn’t worth saying anyway.
“Fuckin’ Kurt Cobain.”
My mother had a hole in her heart, and when she was nine, she’d had
open-heart surgery to repair it. After the operation, the doctor told her
there was a chance she wouldn’t live past twenty. The way my mother
tells it, the doctor was less encouraging, an asshole, had made her cry:
he said she’d be lucky to live to twenty. She says in high school, people
teased her about the scar the surgery had left. Guys at the bus stop called
her “worm chest.” She says my dad came down to the bus stop and beat
them up—no words, no shouting. He just started fighting.
The story makes me laugh—picturing Dad in his early twenties, hair
still long and black, thin dark mustache, walking to her bus stop, that
face he makes when he’s mad.
My mom says, “Your father was crazy—always beating people up.
He’s a violent man. He’s an abuser.” In that way they differed. He hardly
talked about her. If he did, it was dismissively, some sarcastic comment
about stealing his credit cards. But she took every opportunity to trash
him. It made us uncomfortable—not the lengthy, teary-eyed proclamations of guilt but the spotlight she was always shining, illuminating all
the worst parts of us. We felt as anyone might feel: embarrassed, angry.
Like all she had was the bad; the only memories she kept were her worst.