of Age in the Garden of Eden, Pennsylvania
Plucked from the bath, jammies on, clean-smelling flannel, I come into
the living room where my grandmother and aunt and mother and father
and the strange woman we know as Dr. Bunny, who will later turn out
to have been my aunt’s lover, sit smoking in the yellow after-dinner
light. Kiss Grandma goodnight, I am told. Kiss your Aunt Betty. Kiss
Dr. Bunny. I pad from one to the next, offering my cheek, trying not
to recoil at the bright lips, leaking smoke, that plant themselves on
my skin and leave cherry bruises.
Ripe with the vigor of adolescence, I sneak out of high school in the
middle of the morning and hop into my friend Fahrad’s car, and we drive
to the Freeze and Frizz on the New Holland Pike. We order chocolate
sundaes topped with whipped cream and cherries, and we eat them as slowly
as we possibly can. In the distance, I see Amish buggies clip-clopping
along the ridge of a hill. A few years later, Fahrad will be found guilty
of dealing drugs and locked away, and I’ll have had my first Manhattan,
over lunch, with my drama professor, who’s itching to cheat on his wife.
Nibble at the past and you wind up chipping your teeth. Was I ever sweet?
Ask the neighbors whose porch furniture I tossed into the river one
day on my way home from the pool. Why’d you do it, they wanted to know.
Because I could, I thought, ten years old and already starting to spoil.
is the author of Lorca:
A Dream of Life (FSG, 1999) and has published essays and articles
in the New York Times, Washington Post, Opera News, American Theatre,
The American Poetry Review, and Michigan Quarterly Review.
She teaches writing at the University of Michigan Residential College.
photo by Dinty