Her mind had darkened the way a house might darken at end of day, room by room falling silent or filling with strange whispers, windows winking one by one out. The last time they had seen each other alive she had forgotten speech, as dumb as an insane animal, and yet the final sight of him had filled her eyes with a ferocious maternal light as though she would speak if she could find the hang, the wind blowing through the darkened room, lifting the lace curtains just one more time. The wind blew his own doors wide open.
Small child, you loved, your feet, your knee, at dusk, now milk, now a tooth, now two teeth, now fruit, now meat, now meat bitten off the bone.
With a miracle dust rag advertised on late television ( if you order in the next ten minutes you get a dust mop free, a $99 offer for only $9.99) he shines the brown, imitation bronze urn of his mothers ashes with its little brass name plate on the entertainment hutch over the TV. Next to it is a photo and a clip from Robert Frost he likes “Home is that place that when you go there, they have to take you in.” The brass plate doesn’t mention she died homeless and far away. But if you knew her, you’d get that.
Plunk down, late night TV, the nostalgia channel, the golden age of TV. She liked the old TV shows they watched together. This one is “I Dream of Jeannie”. A blond American woman in a Persian harem outfit scoots around levitating salt shakers with a mighty and underemployed blink. She lives in a bottle. She adores the astronaut who found her and although she is a supernatural being of immense power she calls him Master. She lives alone with him, he’s not married. She would do anything for Master. Yes, master. I would do anything for you.
I wish she were my mother.
He feels instantly guilty as though the ashes in the urn would weep at his ingratitude or burst out in some long pent up rage cheated of life’s joy.
Would Jeannie be wiser? Would she live forever and not go crazy? To call the magic lady in the harem pants Mom. To be the darling boy of a being of power who knows ancient things even archaeologists don’t know. If I sprouted in the warm sea of her womb kicking with her omnipresent heartbeat in my ears, burst from her loins howling and nursed at her nipple, could I live in her shadow as an ordinary boy only? Feel I had been given some great purpose in this world? To be launched forth from her tensed thighs with a better handle, new and strange and mistakes unformed and untried, seeming simple. Oh, to be unstrange again and unborn again and no knots tied. Do we blindly bumble down into our mothers wombs like doomed gumballs from a glass bubble?
He opens his eyes and the show has changed and the clock has changed. It’s an old W C Fields movie now and there is Mae West with cleavage and smoke cured husk “I avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.”
She would have lounged leggily and sophisticated with a cheroot in a holder and her pinky finger erect as though mocking the tented trousers before her. She’d call me “big boy.” Come over here big boy, lay down next to Mama. Put your head on my breasts, it’s all right. Come over here little man and let tell you about the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees and a thing called love. Let me teach you how to seduce a woman and you will be my instrument of revenge.
And would she tell me, and would she tell me again and would there be a night, some night, I would seek out her warm bed after a bad dream, some dream, and push open her bedroom door and a naked man would be laying over her scrinching up his eyes with the intensity of his throbbing and she would see me in the light of the hallway and scream my name instead of his and I would scream too – “That’s not my Daddy!”
He wakes and sees the TV has changed again and the windows are waking pinkly.
It’s that show with the kid named Beaver and his brother Wally, Golly Wally mom called him, and there his flawless mother. You cannot call such a woman merely mom. His mother wears freshly pressed dresses and her mother legs are nude and mother wears heels and pearls around her throat as though she were going somewhere but she is only baking a cake. She is the goddess mother of middle class highly employed America and the most erotic of the canon because, though not a being of power, powerless in fact, she is perfection at crafting young men. She’s married to this sensible old drudge who wears a suit and tie at the dinner table and probably during sex and they only eat harmless and unadventurous things no black person or Jewish person or Italian person ever ate at their own dinner tables. Food that announces nothing of itself. Bread and butter. Pearls.
He wants to imagine her wise. He wants to imagine her thighs. He wants to imagine her encouraging voice when she reads his report card or he wins the big game. But when he tries he can only imagine what’s under that pulled up dress and those revealed female hams deeply moistened on a chastely twin bed waiting for the bedroom door to be locked by his sweaty male hand against discovery of incest.
He looks at the urn, lifts the remote control and the TV winks off.