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                 unbroken journal

                    may/june 2015

She swirled tea in the pot, jasmine flowers in the brew bloomed like stars in a night sky.  The teabags’ strings tangled; she remembered she had never been able to do a cat’s cradle. A game little girls played, twisting and looping strings around one’s fingers. Her mass of string formed knots and lumps, like a pot of over-cooked oatmeal. Soon no one asked her to play cat’s cradle. Couldn’t skip rope; couldn’t pick up jacks. Stones thrown too far in hopscotch, under the bushes and out of sight. Never successful at being a little girl, nor at being a daughter.  Not the sort of daughter that her mother wanted. The proud woman who had been her mother. With the kind of looks that adorned garages and barracks. Long legs, bright red lipstick, curves, and cautious eyes. Wolf whistles from men; scornful asides from women. The mother wanted a lot, more. To be a woman of manipulation, haughtiness, calculation. Wanting a daughter with golden curls and baby-doll eyes. And when they emigrated from a country small to a country large. They flew on an airplane – the baby brother, the mother, and the little girl. The father emigrated six months before, would be waiting for them. She remembers nothing but that the brother was ill and cried all the time, all the time. Landing in a big city airport late at night, nowhere to buy food or drink. Not a blind bit of difference the mother said, only small change in her pocket. The mother now crying with the baby brother. The little girl was courageous, she did not cry; she is sure she remembered that she did not cry. Stewardess takes pity and brings stale sandwiches from the plane. They ate small bites, ham and cheese sandwiches, through the early dark hours and into the next day. The next morning, the father was still not there. They waited a long time – and he was still not there. The mother set their suitcases in the middle of the airport terminal. She laid baby brother, finally sleeping, on the floor atop his heavy blue pea jacket, smelling of dried, vomited ham and cheese sandwiches. She sat the little girl, in her red, felt princess coat and matching bonnet on top of one of the suitcases. She scowled at the little girl’s soiled, white socks. The mother smoothed bright red lipstick on pale, pale lips. Pulled a comb through disheveled hair, sat down on the other suitcase; tears long dried, eyes and expression hardened. People, people, many people, had to move around them. Porters stopped and maneuvered loaded carts around them. The mother sat with wool coat tucked around knees, silk-stockinged legs placed primly side by side. She smoked a cigarette. When pulled from her lips the little girl could see a red-lipsticked corona around the end. She watched the cigarette grow shorter and shorter. The mother didn’t speak to her. The mother was as silent as birds before a storm. She was a good girl, the little girl. She sat still and quiet. The mother ground the cigarette beneath the heel of her shoe. The little girl watched the mother light another cigarette, head high and patrician. And then another and then another. The father arrived hours late, not alone. He brought another man. The mother would not show anger in front of a stranger. The father knew this. This man, the father said, had offered his car to take them home. The man was jovial, pinched the little girl’s cheek. It hurt and she didn’t smile. Somber-sides, he called her, and lifted the sleeping brother up from the floor. Wrinkled his nose and handed him off to the father, took the suitcases instead. The mother took the little girl’s hand, she must have taken her hand, and marched smartly ahead of the father and the friend, leaving a dozen red-stained cigarette butts ground into the glossy linoleum. The little girl stumbled along beside the mother, wishing she could be as haughty, as disdainful, as sure as the mother was that the men would scurry along in her wake, fearing her derision and contempt. But she was not that kind of daughter. 

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