She lay in her twin bed listening to the hum of the refrigerator and the hundreds of different little songs the birds were singing outside her window. Slowly, she opened
her eyes. 6:00 am. It had been years since she’d needed an alarm clock to wake her up this early, decades even. She pushed herself up into a seat and swung both of her legs to the
side of the bed in accurate succession. A practiced move, done many many times over many many years. She grabbed a robe from her closet and tied it around her tiny waist
very tightly. Why are mornings so cold? Even when it’s 100 degrees outside, mornings are just so cold.
She sat back down on the bed and reached for a pair of thick socks she had tossed on the floor the night before. She pulled them onto her small feet and paused for a
moment. And just for a moment she remembered walking with her mother; the way her small hand had fit perfectly in the clasp of her mother’s larger one. The way mud on
the river bank smelled early in the morning and the way it felt between her toes when she was given permission to take off her shoes and wade into the water. She
remembered hugging her father, the way her small cheek felt against his neck, and how he always smelled of sweat mixed with dirt from working all day building fence. She remembered exhaustion from playing outside on hot days with her sister. The way it felt to lay down in the cold grass when the summer days were waning into night, and the imprint that her sweaty body left in the green blades when she finally got up to go inside. She remembered the first time she put makeup on her face and she remembered how beautiful she looked with her features so
accentuated. She remembered the first time a boy looked at her and wanted her; the power she had felt in knowing that she could turn him away. She remembered the first
time she was with John, and how it hadn’t been special or nice or pure the way she had imagined. It was sweaty and primitive and maybe something she didn’t want to do
again. She remembered the first time she held her daughter; the way the child’s small hand fit perfectly in the clasp of her own, and how quickly and deeply she had fallen in love
with love. She remembered the first time her son came home from school with a black eye, and she remembered the blinding anger and hatred she felt toward the boy who
had inflicted it upon him.
She remembered standing on the porch and watching all four of her children run around the farm. She remembered the smell of the pig shit and the honeysuckle, the chicken frying in the kitchen. The sound the ice made when it clinked in her glass of tea and the feeling of sweat running from her neck down to the small of her back. She remembered when the freeway was built through their farm and the shift she made from mother, to mother and father as John slowly drifted into depression. She remembered waiting on the porch as his truck sped up the driveway on Saturday nights. The way the gravel was thrown as he parked quickly and crookedly; an action fueled by rage and liquor. She remembered him waking up their young son to tell him stories of how his life hadn’t gone according to plan, and she remembered ferociously chasing him out of the house with a broom when the stories turned physical.
She remembered all of the emotional deaths, and all of the literal ones. That was enough, she thought. She straightened herself up. Her feet found the thick carpet on the floor of her bedroom. She stood and shuffled into the kitchen.
“Mornin’, mama,” Little John said to her. “Good mornin’, son.”