Mrs. Rudikoff had an unsettled and frightened look on her face when she left our apartment in Spanish Harlem that evening. She also appeared to be full of judgment; mostly towards how my brothers laughed instead of how they should have taken pity on her when she said she felt attacked. Also, she probably was judgmental because she knew when she would tell her daughter that there were 40 tiny mice running on the floor in the Manhattan complex her daughter would scream.
A man stands in a train station. He wears a wide-brimmed hat and a long black coat; his hair—what little peeks out from beneath his hat; one suspects he is thinning—is dark, streaked with gray, and unkempt. It runs down the back of his neck, and even out over the collar of his shirt. His face is lined with age, but there is little hair on his cheeks: his grooming is impeccable. He stands within the sight of a great standing clock, but he does not look at it.
Looking deep inside the mirror, he thinks: I am wholly contained inside my skin. His image coats the surface of his eye. He presses his elbow into his side. He squeezes his fist and wrings out his bicep. His body, steaming, stands before him in the grey, sending signals: his image back and forth between him, grey, satiated. He stretches his lips, presses his cheeks into his eyelids and sends up a special kind of prayer. You beast. He strains to call forth his deathless name: Monster. Monster.
I know we were married, but that day itself has gone from me, recently. I had it until yesterday, or the day before. It was not a space I immediately noticed. I ran through my life, wondering what was missing, and noted at length that that day was gone. Sometimes it seems there is order to the washing away of my mind, but in truth it is sporadic. I hear a baby cry. I remember the birth of my daughter, all at once, her red face.
She sat on the toilet seat to wait for the dye to set, and while she did she ran a bath to soak her feet in. She poured in mint bath salts. She thumbed through a magazine. There was a spread about women before and after plastic surgery. She no longer thought plastic surgery was vain; she thought it had to do with the autonomy of a woman’s body. She associated it vaguely with the word empowerment.
This was when I was never sure what I was doing. I had decided that the way for me to be happiest was to not think too hard about anything as long as it felt right. It was a time when I was a heathen and I was happy with how I had justified it.
Once, she positioned herself in her usual armchair next to the window, where her duvet retained its usual cocoon shape. She sat watching the empty street, the fence, the garden plot, the stump, the fossil. She went down the pink porch in her thin cotton socks to see the fossil.
Naomi did not want a man: she wanted a child for herself, a child raised in the city – running around in the dark alleys and playing in the lush courtyards of her own childhood, munching on sweet, warm challah from the baker on the corner and living on the fifth story…