Just weeks before her death in an accident Mom gets an ear infection that erupts into pain and pus. It’s late and there is only one all night pharmacy. We have no car so I have to take three buses to the other side of town. It takes so long it is broad daylight when I get home.
I get Mom a pain pill and an antibiotic and a glass of water and she swallows them and puts the glass down.
You sure took your time, she says sullenly.
The buses run slow, I say. It was the middle of the night and I had to transfer twice.
Sure you didn’t stop off and see your little richbitch gf?
Don’t call her that.
What’s her name? Jeri, Bobbie…
You know bloody well it’s Sherry.
Well. Why haven’t you brought her over here to see us?
Because Grandma would’ve called her a whore and you would’ve said something snide and embarrassed her. I only brought a girl here once. Remember what happened? What you said?
Maybe you should marry her, Mom says smugly.
Maybe I should, and leave you two here to finish killing each other.
Worthless little toad, she says, and throws the water in my face. Then she goes to bed in a huff to dream codeine dreams.
I wipe off my face and lie down and close my eyes. I hear voices outside. It’s Squarehead and Hickeybob next door talking to each other louder than necessary at the fence just a few feet outside the window of the room where I sleep.
Hickeybob says, You can call it growing up if you want to but I call it indecency.
Well, they’ll take care of it, Squarehead gloats. No skin off our asses.
And I realize I’ve been stupid and forgotten they’re still gunning for me. They make this place like the projects; I’m still underage and they keep looking for anything to use against us just because they are assholes. My mistake was to come back home right down the street instead of the back way where they couldn’t see me. When I’ve been out partying all night, which is rare, I’ll go in the back way because I feel guilty and self conscious. But since my errand had been pure and virtuous I got careless and walked home where they could see me.
Of course it’s not their business. I could’ve set out for school before daylight and gotten sick and come home. They didn’t see me leave but they saw me come back. In a closed society like this one the appearance of guilt equals guilt.
And just who are they?
I know that conversation was staged for my benefit but it’s all too much for my tired mind to cope with. I sleep for two hours. When I get up it’s ten o’clock and the old women are asleep. I forge a note for school and go in fashionably late.